Would Steve Jobs have been able to start Apple today?
official biography by Walter Isaacson, 2011, is an extremely
well-written and entertaining book with no holds
any white washing. The one question that we at Maestro
Performance are wrestling with is, taking into account Jobs’
management style, would he have been able to successfully
start and sustain Apple today?
If one looks
at his vision, creativity, attention to detail,
understanding of the link between design and people,
extraordinary high quality standards and focus, the answer
is a definite yes – i.e. he was a visionary leader.
one analyses his management style, some doubts creep in. In
any start-up company in the entrepreneurial phase, the
person running the company tends to be both the leader and
the manager. As the company grows, these positions tend to
separate. The CEO becomes the leader, and a COO manages the
company. Steve Jobs spent too long trying to manage and
control every aspect of the company by himself, to such an
extent that it nearly went bankrupt. Tim Cook, the current
CEO, was only appointed as COO in 2005.
following extract from the book illustrates Jobs' style:
‘almost wilful lack of tact’. It was more than just an
inability to hide his opinions when others said something he
thought dumb; it was a conscious readiness, even a perverse
eagerness, to put people down, humiliate them, show he was
leaders realise their weaknesses and surround themselves
with competent people to support them and take over where
routinely criticised people in public, was rude to suppliers
and thought in extremely black and white terms.
was either a hero or a bozo, a product was either amazing or sh*t”. As we all know, life is not only about making black
and white decisions.
Is this the
behaviour of an effective leader in today’s world?
Would today’s generation tolerate such behaviour in a
company that was starting out?
require some autocratic leadership at times. In the 1970s
and 1980s, people were far more subservient.
In modern times
however, people are much more likely to push back at such behaviour. The EQ of a leader is becoming
more and more
important, and people are starting to evaluate the SQ
(Spiritual Intelligence) of leaders as well. In the book it
is often stated that he had good EQ in that he could assess
people. However, this was generally not applied in a
positive way, i.e. he would not empathise and encourage
people, but rather degrade them.
Although Steve Jobs was a student of Zen teachings for most
of his life, this did not translate into an inner calm that
people associate with such training. Such calmness is
present in an organisation led by a leader that has good SQ.
Apple did not display this calmness, yet it was successful,
but will it continue to be as successful?
got people to perform amazing tasks to produce extraordinary
Could he have done that with different behaviour?