Steve Jobs’ Leadership, Definition and Styles

Defining leadership is a challenging task as there are different approaches and theories explaining the nature of a leader. According to Northouse (2012, p. 4), as many as ‘65 different classification systems have been developed to define the dimensions of leadership’. Namely, Northouse (2012) examines differences between leadership as a trait or as a process, appointed leadership and emergent leadership. According to trait concept, some people were born with particular characteristics that allow them to lead others. In contrast, leadership as a process suggests that anyone can learn how to be a leader in the context of communication with other people. Furthermore, appointed leaders are the ones who are authorized to rule others. However, some leaders emerge in the situations or organizations when they influence other people even not being entitled to it. Therefore, the difference between leadership and management is one of the critical issues in business studies.

For example, results of the study conducted by Simonet and Tett (2012, p. 210) conclude that ‘true leaders… are innovative thinkers expected to take the organization in new and fruitful directions and arouse followers’ internal motives’. However, some researchers see the critical difference between managers and leader in the fact that ‘managers have subordinates’ and ‘leader have followers’ (Leadership vs. management n.d., para. 3-5). Hence, managers have ‘authoritarian and transactional style’, they ‘focus on work and seek comfort’; and leaders, in contrast, have ‘charismatic and transformational style’, they ‘focus on people and seek risk’ (Leadership vs. management n.d., para. 4-8).

However, Antonakisa and Houseb (2014, p. 746) do not contrast transformational and transactional styles of leadership proposing another ‘instrumental leadership’ according to which leaders must ‘scan the internal and external environment, chart strategic and task objectives, and provide performance feedback’. This way, leaders function according to strategic plans of the organization and perform highly efficient.

In my opinion, Steve Jobs who influenced me was a charismatic leader. He could attract people by ‘promising his follower that they not just receive extrinsic rewards but will somehow become better people’ (Leadership vs. management n.d., para. 10). His success in business reflects the idea about transformational leaders who seek risk because ‘when pursuing their vision, they consider it natural to encounter problems and hurdles that must be overcome along the way’ (Leadership vs. management n.d., para. 12). I believe that transformational leadership style made him an effective leader as his followers admired him and were ready to overcome problems to transform not only their products and services but mainly themselves.

Another prominent leader who was also charismatic but used different leading approach was Ronald Reagan. Since he was a president of the United States, he could not take too many risks or act in a provoking manner like Steve Jobs. However, Ronald Reagan also had to appeal to people ‘showing how following him will lead to their hearts’ (Leadership vs. management n.d., para. 9). Moreover, defending his new and risky idea about a tax cut during the debates with Carter, Reagan said, ‘I would like to ask the President why is it inflationary to let the people keep more of their money and spend it the way they like, and it isn’t inflationary to let him take that money and spend it the way he wants?’ (Hayward n.d., para. 3).

In my daily life as a business leader, I would apply the transformational style of leadership. Namely, I would use the tips of Steve Jobs: ‘simplify’, ‘control the experience’, ‘innovate’, ‘ignore reality’, and ‘have confidence’ (Kalla 2012, para. 6-12). However, ‘instrumental leadership’ with its focus on strategic thinking is crucial for successful leader nowadays as well.

Reference List

Antonakisa, J & Houseb, R 2014, ‘Instrumental leadership: measurement and extension of transformational–transactional leadership theory’, The Leadership Quarterly, vol. 25, no, 4, pp. 746–771.

Hayward, S n.d. How Reagan became Reagan, Web.

Kalla, S 2012, ‘10 Leadership Tips from Steve Jobs’, Forbes, Web.

Leadership vs. management n.d., Web.

Northouse, P 2012 Leadership: Theory and practice, 6th edn, SAGE Publications, Inc., Los Angeles.

Simonet, D & Tett R 2012, ‘Five perspectives on the leadership– management relationship: a competency-based evaluation and integration’, Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 199–213.

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