After watching Bloomberg TV’s Game Changer episode on Steve Jobs it is clear that his leadership was a “process” to say the least. Steve had his fair share of ups and downs. Many of these cycles of good times and bad times could be attributed directly to the quality of his “leader-member” exchanges within the organizations he was a part of at any given time. Steve is greatly admired for his far-reaching vision and creativity but sometimes he couldn’t see the tree in front of the forest. And so the relationships suffered though the vision flourished.
Steve was notorious for his dogged commitment to any end goal he set his mind on. Unknowingly for Steve, often he would sabotage his relational image as the price for these goals. High performers would walk away from their job feeling underappreciated and overworked. Steve became known as ruthless and an immovable negotiator. His relationship problems then peaked in 1984 as John Sculley, CEO of Apple at the time, was forced to share with the board members and shareholders that Apple was struggling as a result of Steve’s overly ambitious drive (Bloomberg TV). Robert Cringely, former Apple employee, reports in an interview that Jobs was spending to much money feeding his latest project. Steve did not agree and the board was forced to choose between keeping the Sculley or him. Unexpectedly for Steve, he was let go. The board felt he did not have the maturity to sustain and lead the company into profits and opportunities that they needed to begin growing again. A pattern of low-quality exchanges deteriorated his image of an admired leader that others wanted to work with.
This drove Steve to greater lengths of determination and awoke a competitor that was not seen prior. With bridges burned, Steve became a direct competitor with Apple by going to work for Next. There was intrigue at this point surrounding Jobs. He had built Apple to magnanimous success and now as a free agent, (no job after being laid off) he landed a job at Next where people watched to see if he would take his visions for technology to new places we have yet to see. In his time at Next, Steve learned that he was earning greater attention and momentum from remaining a mystery rather than letting the public and media know what he was up to, according to Cringely. Perhaps this in itself began to influence his methods of isolating himself from others. At this point, Steve might have thought this was a good way of handling relations since previously his relationship deficiencies were his downfall and threatened his success. Avoiding the crowds yielded a positive effect for him at Next. He was hedging against another relational conflict. He already lost that battle once and Steve is a poor loser (Bloomberg). He rarely makes the same mistake twice. “He is a survivor”, says Alan Deutschman, journalist and Silicon Valley correspondent.
Though exciting, his pride and joy project at Next, his new startup, never took off. A high performance machine built for business needs with a high price tag did not fetch well from initial projections. He knew he had to be practical this time. So he decided to scratch the project. He was learning to be practical. He decided focus on the few things Next did well based on the response they received. This runs contrary to the legacy he leaves behind. Jobs created a product and then made the public want it. He believed that they couldn’t want what doesn’t yet exist. So he told them what they wanted and then sold the hell out of it. Time and time again. Steve had a gift at creating products that the people loved and yet he did not have a great reputation for relating to them in high quality exchanges. He drove his staff crazy with work hours. His demands for excellence seemed unreachable. Yet at the same time, he gave the public what they didn’t know they would fall in love with. Somehow, he still knew how to relate. He just wasn’t well at interacting. He was good at the “exchanges” that leader-member exchange theory prescribes for effective leading.
Steve decided to keep his distance and relate from afar it appears. He maintained a very private life even through his bout with cancer except for the letters he wrote to the staff regarding critical updates on his health that would effect change at Apple. He went on leave twice but always spun it with positive outlook for the future. He often was not popular with direct relationship skills but we all love him for his futuristic insight that effected our greater good. And in the end, I think the majority of the american public feel like they would like him personally if they had a chance to know him. His impact on us all has been immeasurable. His performance, as supported by the leader member exchange theory, created a postive relationship quality that seems to have outweighed his deficiencies (Northouse p.167, 2013).
Northouse, P. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed). Los Angeles: Sage.
TV. (2011, October 14). Bloomberg Game Changers: Steve Jobs – YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved July 9, 2013, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vrM7AvmxTA