Apple is one of the most transformative companies of the modern era. From its humble beginning in 1976 to its current status as a tech giant, much of the growth can be attributed to the mastery of its leaders, and in particular that of Steve Jobs. After returning to the company in 1997, Jobs steered the company out of jaws of collapse and made it one of the most successful tech companies of all time.
The Rationale for Considering Apple as a Creative Organization
Since its first Apple computer in 1976, the company has been on a steadily forward match. Apple is worth at least $ 800 billion, and its valuation may well go beyond $ trillion in the coming days. The latter attainment would make it the most valuable company in the world (Umoh, 2017). This status has been achieved through creativity. According to the prescriptions of Mastering Leadership, leaders who function out of the creative mindset generate great ideas which enhance the competitive advantage of their organizations. Creative leadership creates a vision and focuses on how the outcome of the vision would be realized. Creativity is not governed by the environment but the ability to discern the environment and identify the needs of consumers in that particular environment (Anderson, Adams & Adams, 2015).Throughout the history of Apple, the company has succeeded in positioning itself as a leading innovator; exploiting creativity and aligning it with technology not only to meet the needs of consumers but also satisfy their expectations. Most usually, the achievements of the firm have gone beyond customer expectations (Umoh, 2017).
Why Apple is a Beacon of Leadership?
As pointed out earlier, the success of Apple is rooted in its cutting age capabilities to innovate. Evidently, Apple is one of those companies that are quick at understanding emerging technologies and devises the right strategies of identifying unmet customer needs and innovate in order meet them. When Steve Jobs rejoined Apple in 1997, the company was not doing well, and its market share plummeted to a record low of 3.8 percent in the second quarter of 1997. In other words, it was on the brink of bankruptcy (Jaruzelski & Mainardi, 2011). However, the arrival of Jobs saw the organization change for good. In Mastering Leadership Anderson and Adams (2015) suggest that organizational leaders must be adaptable, fluid, and creative for them to survive in todays complex business environment. This is what the Apple leadership embraces to the core. Jobs restructured the company and consolidated its product lines to ensure that the company maximizes on its capabilities. For example, Jobs abandoned investment in raw technology and adopted a management model that built on the innovations of others (Jaruzelski & Mainardi, 2011).
Another area that Apple appears to have appreciated the principles enumerated in Mastering of Leadership is its purposefulness. Jobs had the vision of making Apple a leader in high-tech business. This came to pass. Before becoming giants in high-tech, the leadership had to be purposeful and designed specific goals that were supposed to be achieved within a specific period; pursuing specific products which every employee in the company could be identified with and work towards their achievement. This is what Jobs referred to as six core products (Umoh, 2017; Jaruzelski & Mainardi, 2011).This creativity led to the birth of the Macintosh computer.
Creative leaders must be willing to accept the risks that leading entails. The willingness to take the risk is based on their strong belief in their abilities regarding innovation (Anderson & Adams, 2015). After the launch of iMac, Apple continued to take risks and invested in innovation of existing technologies. As a result, in 2001 the iPod was introduced into the market. Most recently, Jobs launched the iPhone and iPad in 2007 and 2010 respectively-both pioneering products (Jaruzelski & Mainardi, 2011).For Jobs, his imagination that he would revolutionize how people learn, work and play created imagery in him which, in turn, inspired the creativity of the organization as prescribed in Mastering Leadership.
Organizational Culture and Structure for Strategic Change
The culture at Apple is characterized by creativity and creation of an environment that emphasizes on achievement. The leaders of the organization are hard drivers and have high expectations of employees. Innovation and transformation are some of the most important values of the organization (Jaruzelski & Mainardi, 2011).This culture was created and encouraged by Steve Jobs who often put a lot of emphasis on creativity and innovation. He hired great talent and used coaching as a tool for getting maximum value from his employees by exerting pressure for exceptional performance (Umoh, 2017; Jaruzelski & Mainardi, 2011). According to Steinwart and Ziegler (2014) Steve Jobs actively engaged with followers and stimulated creativity in employees. All this was done in an environment of secrecy which meant to protect the property rights of the organization by ensuring that innovation efforts of the company are protected and sustained (Jaruzelski & Mainardi, 2011).
Regarding organizational culture, Apples decision-making process is concentrated at the top. This was a common practice during the time of Steve Jobs. For instance, Jobs put pressure on employees to perform. He was a creative genius who relied on his singular instincts to make decisions on what products Apple should produce and how such products should look. His word was followed to the letter. He was charismatic, and his staff showed unwavering willingness to follow him wherever he led (Nocera, 2011).The effectiveness of these traits has been well-elaborated in Mastering of Leadership. According to the authors, this structure enables leaders to create the vision for the organization and rally everybody along. It gives the leaders the courage to tell employees the truth about the current status of the organization and the direction it must take to remain competitive.
Creativity is an essential element for survival in todays complex business environment. It appears the necessity for change is an ongoing process for those leaders that want to be market leaders. An outstanding lesson that I have learned is that reactive minds cannot innovate. We have to challenge ourselves to achieve by taking risks. Also, a leader has to identify a specific vision for the organization. A clear vision allows leaders to pull every employee into the fold in pursue the vision. This is what I admire most when I reflect on the leadership style of Steve Jobs. Accordingly, he appeared to be a dictator who pressured everyone to a corner for results. However, he valued teams and built capacities of employees. For me, this is what stands out from the rest of his leadership styles.
Anderson, R. J., & Adams, W. A. (2015). Mastering leadership: An integrated framework for breakthrough performance and extraordinary business results. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
Jaruzelski, B., & Mainardi, C. R. (2011). The world's 10 most innovative companies, and how they do it. Forbes.
Nocera, J. (2011). What makes Steve Jobs great. The New York Times [New York].
Steinwart, M. C., & Ziegler, J. A. (2014). Remembering Apple CEO Steve Jobs as a Transformational Leader. Journal of Leadership Education, 13(2), 52-66. doi:10.12806/v13/i2/rf3
Umoh, R. (2016). How Apple's success can be traced to Steve Jobs. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/13/how-apples-success-can-be-traced-to-steve-jobs.html
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