Steve Jobs is a household name. The vast majority of the developed world (and likely the undeveloped world, for that matter) is intimately familiar with at least one of Jobs’ visionary products: the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, and/or the iPad. Although his personality was often described as rude, abrasive, and sometimes unfriendly (Wasson, 2017), Steve Jobs was undeniably a great CEO who possessed many personality traits and skills which fostered his ability to lead.
Google “Steve Jobs” and the majority of photos will reveal his standard “uniform:” a black long-sleeved turtleneck, blue jeans, and New Balance sneakers. Steve’s image was far from the standard three-piece suit that most CEOs are assumed to wear. This is one of the ways Jobs was able to appear approachable and humble with his employees; he was a huge proponent of equality among all, as well as free expression. His unparalleled leadership was founded in his personality traits; he was extraverted and conscientious, meaning he was outgoing, competitive, decisive, self-confident, planful, hardworking, and followed through with his commitments (Northouse, 2018). He suffered from the dark-side trait of perfectionism, but that ultimately led to only the highest-quality products being released, which differentiated Apple from the competition. Steve’s drive, desire to lead, knowledge, as well as his practical and creative intelligence enabled him to spread his concept for the company to all of his employees. Jobs’ visionary leadership created a working environment for all that fostered creativity, hard-work, and success.
Steve’s vision differed from other technology companies’ CEOs of his time. He wanted to create a unique, flawless product which provided only the best user experience. Steve knew that to have such complete control over the company’s products meant creating both the hardware and software in-house. This idea was somewhat unheard of before; competitors such as Microsoft and IBM focused on either software or hardware, not both. They trusted other companies to create software (or hardware) on which their product relied. This led to a less than desirable user experience due to incompatibility issues and a lack of consistency across devices. Jobs saw this as a huge mistake, and used it as a platform on which to build the most successful technology company to date.
Jobs’ leadership skills grew over the course of his career as the CEO of Apple. In the mid-80s, shortly after Jobs co-founded Apple, Steve’s employees recalled him as a nightmare boss and said they’d never work for him again. His return to Apple in the mid-90s as CEO marked the beginning of the change in his leadership style. While he was still uninhibited and quick to voice his opinion, Steve figured out how to better communicate and motivate his employees through various career-experiences and environmental factors. Jobs’ conceptual and human skills flourished over the course of his career; he knew how to interact with his upper-management team, but also with his ground-level engineers, designers, programmers, marketing team, and retail team. Such communications allowed him to spread his conceptual ideas for Apple to all of his employees, giving them the same aspirations and ideals for the company as he possessed. Jobs didn’t necessarily possess the technical know-how to put his conceptual ideas into effect, but he knew how to communicate his ideas effectively. One story illustrative of this involves a prototype meeting between the design engineers and Jobs prior to the release of the first iPod. Steve was adamant that he wanted the iPod to be as small as possible; the designers claimed that they could not make it any smaller. Jobs picked up the prototype and dropped it into the fish tank in the conference room. As the iPod fell to the bottom of the tank, air bubbles started emerging out of it. Jobs used these air bubbles to illustrate his point that if there was air inside the device, there was room to make it smaller (Tweedie, 2014).
Jobs was born with certain personality traits that pre-disposed him to be a leader. He was extraverted, driven, conscientious, decisive, and a perfectionist. He only wanted to put out the best possible product, and knew he had to have the best possible employees in order to do that. He was always striving for greatness, but often came off as rude and abrasive when he voiced his opinions. Through his career, Steve gained leadership skills through his experiences and various environmental factors. He learned how to better communicate with his subordinates so that he could spread his conceptual ideas for the direction of the company. Steve was undeniably one of the most inspirational and impactful leaders of the twenty-first century; his legacy lives on not only through Apple, but through the lives his technology touched.
Jones, C. (2015, October 16). So what was Aaron Sorkin really saying about Steve Jobs? Retrieved September 8, 2018, from http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/theater/chrisjones/ct-steve-jobs-artist-apple-jones-ae-1018-20151015-column.html
Northouse, P. (2018) Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Tweedie, S. (2014, November 18). Steve Jobs Dropped The First iPod Prototype Into An Aquarium To Prove A Point. Retrieved September 8, 2018, from https://www.businessinsider.com/steve-jobs-threw-ipod-prototype-into-an-aquarium-to-prove-a-point-2014-11
Wasson, A. (2017, August 02). 11 Personality Traits of Steve Jobs. Retrieved September 3, 2018, from https://www.businessalligators.com/steve-jobs-personality-traits/