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Leadership Case Study

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Updated: Jun 17th, 2021

Introduction

Leadership is one of the concepts in the world, which has received massive coverage and attention. Although there are several reasons behind this trend, the commonest one is the fact that leaders have a significant influence in the society. Not to mention that some people and organizations have become what they are today because of the impact of certain leaders (Grint 2010, p. 1).

Leadership

Even though there is a wide range of definitions that describe a leader, it has been universally agreed that a leader is a person who gives direction to others in order to attain a common goal (Gallos 2008, p. 1). This is mainly achieved through setting a pace in serving as a role model and creation of a working environment that allows members of the organization or employees to feel honored as part of the advancement process.

Importantly, a leader cannot be viewed as a boss since he or she remains committed to the full course of achieving set goals and objectives. It is noteworthy that there are numerous qualities, which define the character of a good leader. While these factors may vary from one person to another, common traits include being a good listener, focused, organized, available, ready to delegate duties, confident and decisive (Gallos 2008, p. 2).

Leadership Theories

Twentieth century saw the demand and interest in leadership rise to an advanced stage. While early leaders laid emphasis on existing differences between leaders and followers in terms of their qualities, subsequent leadership theorists approached the issue by considering certain variable like qualifications and situations in establishing an understanding of leadership traits (Grint 2010, p. 1). Some of these theories have been discussed under this segment of the analysis.

The first one is the “great man” theory, which assumes that good leaders are born and that what is considered to be good traits are naturally obtained. In other words, these leaders are born, which is against the notion that favors making of leaders. This school of thought normally depicts leaders to be heroic and ready to take up leadership positions in the corporate world whenever there is need.

It is also paramount to note that the term was developed when the society thought that leadership was strictly meant for males (Bolden et al. 2003). This theory is believed to have been first developed by Thomas Carlyle, a time when gender equality was not being talked about as it is today. Men were therefore given leadership preference as women dominated other domestic areas of society management.

It is also believed that the trait theory resembles the great man philosophy, as it assumes that certain qualities observed among some leaders are inherited, thus making them better than other leaders. This theory generally focuses on a behavior or trait, which is common among leaders. Even though this has been the case, it is hard to explain the existence of some of these qualities among people who are not leaders (Bolden et al. 2003). This is considered as the main obstacle in adopting this theory when explaining the concept of leadership.

On the other hand, contingency theories address certain variables, which are connected to the environment and influence the type of leadership style suitable for a given situation. A very important fact under this theory is that situations in life cannot be addressed by one leadership style.

This is based on a wide range of ways in which the situations are manifested. Basically, success is coupled with leadership styles, different situational aspects and traits carried by followers (Bolden et al. 2003). This leadership theory is closely related to situational theories, which affirm that situational variables are key in influencing the decision made by leaders. It follows that a decision-making process may require several leadership styles to ensure that the best position is reached.

Unlike of the ideas discussed above, behavioral theories of leadership are inclined towards the fact that good leaders are made. It is solely based on behaviorism and the overall manner in which leaders act. In essence, the theory suggests that good leadership can be attained through learning and observation as opposed to being natural traits in human beings (Bolden et al. 2003).

Moreover, participative theories of leadership support the fact good leadership seeks to incorporate the ideas of others in decision-making. They motivate other people to be part of the course of achieving set goals and objectives. Nevertheless, a leader may choose not to consider the input of his or her followers.

Management leadership focuses on concepts of performance, supervision and organization. It is founded on the use of rewards and punishments in ensuring that the course is retained by all parties involved. This is the commonest leadership theory in business, where employees are recognized according to their input.

The last theory of leadership is the relationship theory, which is also referred to as transformational theory. This emphasizes on the bond between leaders and their followers. Through motivation, these leaders show their followers the benefits, which are hidden in the future. As much as they are concerned with performance, exploitation of each person’s potential is always at the heart of their performance. These leaders equally possess high standards in terms of ethics and morality (Bass & Riggio 2006).

Steve Jobs leadership

The name of Steve Paul Jobs has dominated the world of leadership especially in the 21st century; at the peak of technological advancements in computer technology. Born in 1955, Steve Jobs was a man of his caliber in terms of innovation of business ideas. Until his death in 2011, Jobs remained an icon of transformational leadership (Peña 2005).

Among other successes and leadership positions, Jobs was well known for as the chairman and co-founder of the famous Apple Inc. Unlike his counterparts who have a clear-cut of their leadership styles, Jobs could not be described by a single style of leadership; he was endowed with several qualities, which helped him to traverse the business world, to achieve such massive success. Importantly, his life experiences right from teenage played a major role in molding his personality, having failed to graduate from college.

In his 2005 address at the Stanford University, Steve Jobs highlighted several life experiences, which had shaped his life and challenged graduates to see success and opportunities in setbacks, which life offers. He believed in having faith, by connecting dots in life even during hard moments and hardly regretted for his decisions, including the selection of an expensive college that became a challenge to his parents in paying tuition fees.

As a result, he dropped out, and registered for calligraphy, which was significant in designing fonts while designing the first Macintosh. The love for his job was unwavering. Together with his friend, they founded Apple and even after being kicked out of the company, he moved on to launch NeXT Software Inc., which was acquired by Apple in 1997, giving a chance to rejoin Apple. His ill-health was a further source of inspiration in life.

After surviving a pancreatic surgery necessitated by cancer, he considered it as a wakeup call; to maximize the use of available time in doing what he loved most (Peña 2005). It is this path that shaped Steve Paul Jobs to become a leader with countless styles and qualities.

Firstly, Jobs was a charismatic leader. He was widely known for his ability to give captivating speeches, a trait that was equally employed in his career. His storytelling skills favored him capturing the attention of not only his audience but also his employees at Apple and other companies (Kramer 2010).

He was able to communicate the benefits of using Apple products as compared to other products by use of metaphors and analogies. His charismatic nature was essential in developing enthusiastic leaders who remained focused towards achieving that which seemed impossible in the eyes of many and convince his customers that his company had the best products in the market.

Jobs inherent and learned traits seemed to define his character and leadership path. Due to this, he earned himself several titles, which mainly described his attachment to perfection (Kramer 2010). His leadership was therefore described as personalized; he sometimes expected too much from an employee.

According to Jobs, he was interested in making people better, a leadership approach that was sometimes misinterpreted as being autocratic and rude especially in meetings. As an autocratic leader, Jobs insisted on being in control and showing people what to do even as a role model. While at Apple, Jobs had over a hundred employees who directly reported to him directly. His degree as a participatory leader was therefore low (Peña 2005).

Importantly, Steve Jobs remains an icon of transformational leadership. Throughout his career, Steve Jobs managed to transform different companies like Pixar. He also led by example, showing employees and other managers what was to be done in order to overcome the challenges of a competitive business world (Kramer 2010). This was essential in bringing out the best in every employee and promoting performance.

Jeff Bezos

He is the founder of Amazon.com, its CEO and chair of the company’s board. Bezos is highly recognized in the money market and was valued at $3.6 billion, according to Forbes’ survey in the year 2006. He was listed as the personality of the year in 1999 by the Time magazine. Besides Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin, with an aim of promoting tourism. He is definitely influential and his leadership style is worth studying to understand his success secrets.

Unlike some of company owners who choose to delegate managerial positions, Bezos runs Amazon.com as its founder and CEO. He therefore battles out by transiting from a small company to the head of thousands of employees.

He is generally overwhelmed with fun and innovations, having carried his laughing character to the company. In analyzing his leadership qualities, Bezos has been described using a wide range of approaches (‘Taking the long view’ 2012).

He is a transformational leader. Based on the path he has used to get Amazon.com where it is today, it is doubtless that he has been instrumental in promoting the company’s performance. He has always made choices based on his desire to move to another level, a reasons he gives for marrying his wife. His visionary has definitely landed him to a place he dreamed, decades ago.

He is also concerned in the performance of managers and other company employees. In order to impact his management team, he organizes weekly meeting, reporting on experiences and answering questions from him. The Just Do It program launched by Bezos was highly applauded for promoting participatory management at Amazon (‘Taking the long view’ 2012).

According to the program, managers are promoted for their innovative ideas, which are aimed at improving the company’s performance. His perfectionism in performance means that he has to higher new managers consistently, who are intelligent and highly skilled.

Skills approach leadership

This approach is mainly leader-centered. In other words, it focuses on certain skills, which can be learned and improve the leadership potential of an individual. It is obvious that knowledge and skills are essential for one to be recognized as a strong leader. Furthermore, skills denote what is achievable by a leader, while traits mainly focus on a leader’s identity (Leadership Skills Approach 2012). This leadership approach requires a leader to master three important areas, which are conceptual, technical and human.

Technical skills determine a leader’s proficiency in performing certain tasks. For instance, Steve Jobs’ skills as a computer scientist were paramount in navigating through the world of computers. Despite his lack of a college degree, he had relevant knowledge in the world of technology (Peña 2005).

He also had innovative skills, which transformed several companies including Apple Inc. Mr. Bezos equally has computer skills in science and business, which have been significant in internet business, marketing and cloud computing. Bezos has experience in garage operations, having been a garage inventor during his early years of entrepreneurship.

Skills approach of leadership further emphasizes on human skills, which are vital in dealing with people (Leadership Skills Approach 2012). Although Steve Jobs was sometimes considered to be rude autocratic in handing employees, his sense of charisma made him an outstanding leader in handling people. He was a role model and encouraged his employees to exploit their potential. On the other hand, Bezos enhances his human skills through weekly training and hiring of intelligent and smart employees.

The last aspect is having conceptual skills, which are necessary in making long-term decisions (Leadership Skills Approach 2012). Steve jobs had a long-term vision and remained focused on the course despite his failure to graduate from university. While serving with various companies, he invested in getting higher.

He transformed Apple, making it one of the leading technological companies in the world. Similarly, Amazon culture is dominated with long-term strategies. Since its inception, Amazon always invests its short-term profits for long-term benefits. Bezos takes risks, venturing into fields, which are less considered. These included cloud computing and the Blue Origin.

The question we need to ask is how Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos would lead a conservative industry like banking or construction. As mentioned before, the contingency theory of leadership focuses on external and internal factors, which determine the kind of leadership necessary. In other words, it may require the application of several styles in order to achieve reputable skills.

The success of the two would not be limited, by the fact that their leadership styles are more diverse. For instance, Steve Jobs had several leadership styles, which would be important in taking a contingent approach. However, they would be limited in innovation; their success stories revolve around innovative ideas, which might not have a place in a conservative environment.

While starting a company like Apple or Amazon with five employees, it would be important to apply transformational leadership in order to realize success. This is because transformational approach focuses on having a vision to advance to higher levels in future. It further nurtures talents and skills among employees for maximum performance (Bass & Riggio 2006).

Transformational leadership was highly employed by Jobs and Bezos. This helped in changing their small businesses into multinational companies. Nevertheless, this styles wastes a lot of time since leaders have to share their goals with follower. It can also be misused especially by dictatorial leaders.

Conclusion

From the above report, it is clear that leadership is a major concept in the society. Additionally, the success of leaders largely depends of their leadership qualities and styles. Leadership theorists argue that every leader can be grouped into a particular class of leadership. In this case study, it was revealed that several leadership styles contributed to the success of Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos, to become world leading CEOs in the 21st century.

To thrive in this competitive environment, they adopted several leadership styles. Moreover, transformational leadership qualities were key in developing their success story. It is worth noting that different companies may require varying leadership styles for their success.

List of References

Bass, B & Riggio, R 2006, Transformational Leadership, Routledge, London.

Bolden et al. 2003, A Review of Leadership Theory and Competency Frameworks. Web.

Gallos, J 2008, Business Leadership: A Jossey-Bass Reader, John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey.

Grint, K 2010, Leadership: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, London.

Kramer, D 2010, Leadership Behaviors and Attitudes of Steve Jobs. Web.

. 2012. Web.

Peña, M, 2005, . Web.

‘Taking the long view’ 2012 The Economist (US), vol. 402, p. 1-3.

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