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Steve Jobs: A Charismatic Leader Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 3rd, 2021


Before his premature death after a long and brave fight with cancer, Steve Jobs had become a force to reckon in the IT field. Steve Jobs had an equal number of friends as enemies within the company, which depended on their relationship.

As the Apple’s co-founder, Steve was a celebrity, who commanded respect from his colleagues and many people across the world. His colleagues focused on every word that Jobs uttered during his speeches. They believed that his words had a hidden meaning.

Hence, his constituents could go through his letters trying to decipher the hidden message. As a boss, Steve Jobs was forceful, tough, decisive, and astoundingly inspirational.

As a businessperson, he was cunning and cold. His tactics were hardhearted and his business ideas were unsullied. In all areas, Jobs did not falter to speak out his views whenever he felt that things were not going as planned.

Steve Jobs was a vibrant and alluring leader. His charisma saw him make significant improvement in Apple Company. Steve Jobs, obsessed with desire for perfection ended up losing his job in Apple. His goals crashed with those of the organization prompting the board members to withdraw all his responsibilities.

His dismissal acted as an opportunity for him to revolutionalize the computer industry. During the period that he was out of Apple, Steve used his knowledge and charisma to draw a team of staff close to him, which helped him to enhance his knowledge in the production of animations.

Moreover, he learnt the science of producing operating systems. His return to Apple is considered as a wonderful move that rescued a company that was in the blink of collapsing.

With his charisma, Jobs managed to earn the trust of people who had initially seen him as arrogant and bossy and through their help; he revived Apple and made it significant in the computer world once more.

Leadership style

Steve was a strong and alluring director. According to Boje, a charismatic leader is one that draws all his or her subjects towards him through dint of charm and personality (433-445). In most cases, charismatic leaders are born with the charisma.

They take time to study their surrounding and are able to identify the mood of their audience, therefore using their skills to suit the circumstances. Moreover, charismatic leaders have a great deal of poise, commanding vision, hard to convince to change their mind, and a dominant, even a pushy character.

These features help them overcome all sorts of crisis that come their way. Nevertheless, the traits could at times make such leaders dangerous, especially if they happen to pursue the wrong vision (Boje 450-461). As a charismatic leader, Jobs was remarkably inspirational, liked using anecdotes to motivate, and his desire for perfection was moving (Bryman 289-291).

Depending on actions that insist on the instructional style, Steve did not rush to share his thoughts about the course he felt the project ought to take. Besides, he was always ready to influence his juniors to adopt his opinions regarding problem-solving techniques.

The charismatic personality of Steve Jobs helped Apple Company overcome numerous crisis, made significant and productive changes, and even led to employees agreeing to work for 90 hours per week with limited resistant.

Through his leadership, the company could now meet deadlines, a phenomenon that was once considered as impossible in the company. His charisma, dominating influence, and conviction also led to Jobs losing his job in Apple Company when he blatantly opposed the move by the board members to change the course of the company (Bryman 296).

According to (Appleyard 16), Jobs had the salesperson’s passion for the product and great determination to make sure that his company is successful. With such determination, there was the potential of Apple Company becoming a success as well as many people turning into Jobs’ foes.

As a normal charismatic leader, Steve Jobs had numerous hurdles to surmount during his young age. First, he was an adopted child. Consequently, he had the problem of trying to understand his identity. His desire to establish his personal identity was intertwined with his dedication to Eastern beliefs and the pursuit for truth.

Awamleh and Gardner assert that a close acquaintance of Steve Jobs during the 1970s, once said, “Steve Jobs felt some kind of unresolved pain over being adopted…he hired a private investigator to try to track down his mother…he was obsessed with it for a while” (345).

Another instance of Steve Jobs’ charisma at vocation was his chronological propensity to use anecdotes to motivate and inspire his employees. Stories are powerful instruments for leaders working in technological institutions. They promote creativity among the employees as they make their mind see the bigger picture of the company.

Besides, anecdotes help the leaders build a culture and promote organizational goals, mission, and vision. By using stories, Jobs made his employees develop the feeling that their contribution to the company was helping it stand out internationally.

Steve asserted that his intension was to establish a gap in the world through Apple Company (Burrows and Grover 18). This mission guided all his operations and he worked hard to inculcate the same mission in the minds of all his employees. The assignment gave workers a sense of purpose, which promoted to their loyalty to the organizational goals.

Steve’s leadership in Apple

Steve Jobs, together with Steve Wozniak established Apple Company in 1979. They built Apple I as their first computer, which they offered in the market at $666.66. The computer was received well in the market leading to the company selling over 600 computers.

In 1977, the company came up with Apple II. The computer had the capacity to run business programs. Consequently, many people purchased the computer, making it the first personal computer to receive a massive market reception (Burrows and Grover 18).

Steve’s approach to leadership in Apple Company was influential. He did not assume an official position as the chief executive officer. Instead, he acted as one of the board members. Scott Markkula was given the role of the president of Apple Computer, Inc. while Steve Jobs became the chairperson of the board members.

Later, John Sculley became the company’s chief executive officer, but Steve Jobs retained the leadership position of the company.

Steve’s superior personality and charisma pulled employees closer to him. With time, his goals contradicted with those of the Apple Computer Inc. leading to a power struggle between him and Sculley (Burrows and Grover 18).

Jobs’ relations within and without the company

Steve Jobs had a unique way of associating with his employees. He could be awfully kind, encouraging, and gratifying. At one fell swoop, he could also be downhearted, malicious, difficult, and demanding. His relationship with other corporations, suppliers, and consumers was equally impulsive.

It was hard to know what to expect from Steve Jobs no matter how long one had worked with him (Conger, Kanungo, and Menon 747). He had an astonishing capacity to marshal people behind him and engage him in activities geared towards his personal and organizational interests.

For instance, he was capable of addressing all problems relating to sales and supplies. At one time, demand for the Apple II computers went high exerting pressure on the manufacture of cases, especially when there was machine failure.

The company could not continue supplying the computers efficiently and this affected its cash flow. Describing the incidence Conger, Kanungo, and Menon said, “The suppliers went on rampage demanding their payment while Apple Computer Inc. was working hard to manage 60-day credit purchases with the amount it collected from its sales to consumers on a 30-day basis” (749).

Steve rescued the situation by promising a bonus to manufacturers who met their production target ahead of the set timeframe. According to Conger, Kanungo and Menon, “…manufacturers were to get $1,000 for weekly delivered cases ahead of schedule” (750).

The move motivated the manufactures prompting them to repair their machines. Within a short period, they started supplying the company with enough cases that helped it meet the demand in the market.

The cash flow in the company regained its initial position (Conger, Kanungo, and Menon 749-759). Steve managed to rescue a company that was almost closing its doors due to bankruptcy.

Another example of Steve’s charismatic leadership during the same financial crisis depicts his dark side and his dedication to addressing the employees’ needs. There was a problem in the routine back up, which led to a programmer losing six weeks of work.

Call Company was given the mandate of carrying out the routine back up. After the incidence, the company’s head declined to offer the back-up services to Apple because Jobs and Wozniak mistreated him during the incident.

Moreover, Apple Computer Inc. was not paying for the backup services during the financial crisis (Conger, Kanungo, and Menon 766).

Steve Jobs assured Kamradt (the Call Company’s head) that he would pay all his dues if he agreed to give Apple the back-up tape. Kamradt agreed to cooperate and give Apple the tape to recover its lost work. He later visited Jobs in his office to collect his pay.

On getting to Jobs’ office, Kamradt got shocked when Steve told him that he would not pay him because his computers had deleted weeks of work. He had no choice but to leave the office frustrated and that marked the end of his relationship with Apple Computer Inc.

The negative side of Jobs’ Charisma

The zeal and fervor that overwhelmed Steve about the Apple Company, which swayed his employees to trust in his abilities, and that, endowed him with influential and informal leadership, as a board member in the company is also the same zeal and fervor that ultimately made him lose his job in the company (Conger “Inspiring others” 31-37).

The company was starting to perform poorly. Its sales volume was down with the estimated sales of Macintosh being at 10 percent. Steve blamed Sculley for the poor performance. He insisted that for the company to improve its performance, Sculley had to relinquish his presidency and give him the responsibility.

Jobs’ charisma had earned him a lot of support and trust from a majority of the company’s employees. Hence, he was ready to do everything to ensure that he ousted Sculley. He went to the extent of organizing for a coup in the company.

The company’s management board discovered the coup before it actually took place and withdrawn all the responsibilities given to Steve. He was to act as the chairperson of the company’s board members.

Subsequent change

After leaving the company, Steve moved to Europe where he began to popularize the Apple II computer. Eventually, he managed to buy a tent and a bicycle to aid his movement across the country. The transformation gave him an opportunity to reconsider his approach of seeing and interpreting things.

His attitude towards the public changed significantly. He stopped focusing on personal interests and worked towards helping the company grow.

At one point, he agreed that it comes a time when one focuses on his or her inner values. Perhaps that is what he was doing during his work in Europe and later in Russia (Conger “Inspiring others” 41-44).

Later, Steve Jobs went back to Cupertino, and through his charisma, he managed to acquire a market from the universities in the region. He instantly embarked on the establishment of a new company, NeXT, to facilitate in development of computers that could satisfy the budget and performance requirements.

He used his charisma to lure some of his former colleagues in Apple Computer Inc. to join him and form the company. He relinquished his responsibility as the Chairman of Apple (Conger “Inspiring others” 45).

He had already discovered his potential and enjoyed working with a small number of staff that was ready to develop superior products that could revolutionalize the world.

Leadership hitches in NeXT

Steve was fervent about his job. He held the belief that things ought to go his way. He was not ready to partake in any project that did not meet his interests. This was evident in how he managed the negotiations between his company and International Business Machine (IBM) Company.

Soon after establishing the company and inventing a novel operating system, which was simple to understand and apply, he intimated to IBM’s CEO, how dominant and valuable operating system would be (Conger “Max Weber’s Conceptualization” 277-283).

IBM was attracted by the advantage that Steve and his company brought to it and assembles some representatives to facilitate in negotiations. The representatives presented to Steve a 100-page contract, which he declined and compiled his six-page contract, which he ensured that it addressed all his interests.

During the negotiations process, NeXT Company incurred huge loss. By then, IBM was relying on Microsoft for its operating systems. Steve saw this as an opportunity to lure IBM to enter into a business agreement with NeXT (Conger “Max Weber’s Conceptualization” 286).

Leadership alterations with Pixar

Whilst working on NeXT, Steve managed to convince George Lucas to sell his hardware and software studio. This demonstrated his charismatic leadership. He used his tolerance, concession ability, and instinct to obtain the studio.

It highlighted the influence of his charismatic leadership and the transformations he was about to make upon his return to Apple. His ability to stay put and to convince people that he is pursuing the right goals always earned him trust (Conger “Max Weber’s Conceptualization” 288).

He knew when to apply his skills as well as who to target. When Steve presented his proposal to George for the first time, George agreed to sell the studio under the condition that Steve would part with $30 million. However, Jobs learnt that George was in a business contract with Ross Pert.

Based on the nature of their business contract, Steve knew that the contract would not last for long. He decided to wait until the two fall out to approach George with his proposal.

Later, George accepted to sell the studio at $10 million. He named the studio Pixar, which later took control of the digital animation industry (Sharma and Grant 13).

Reappointment in Apple Company

NeXT was still struggling in the wake of Steve’s capricious leadership. Despite his charisma, Steve was still not able to make viable business decisions. The greatest achievement he had made in the company was to come up with an operating system. The company was no longer making further innovations.

It had nothing unique to show to the investors. In 1996, Apple felt that it required a novel operating system to make its computers competitive (Sharma and Grant 14-18). The company started negotiations with Sun Microsystems.

In addition, Microsoft Company through Bill Gates offered to work with Apple in the development of a new operating system.

Meanwhile, one of the Apple’s board members was working on an operating system in his company, Be, Inc. Without Jobs’ knowledge, some engineers in NeXT Company learnt about the intentions of the Apple Computer, Inc and contacted the company to see if it could buy their operating system.

Through his charisma, Steve managed to win the trust of the Apple’s board members. They entered into a contract where NeXT supplied Apple with not only its operating system but also with staff. Eventually, Apple bought NeXT and gave Steve the role of a special adviser.

Later, Steve Jobs became the acting chief executive officer of Apple. For Steve, charisma is not something he decided to apply in his leadership (Harvey 253-257). Normally, a leader ought to earn his or her leadership, and in charismatic leadership, just like other forms of leadership, a leader has to involve and consult with his or her support staff.

The workforce has to relate a leader with charismatic behaviors before he or she can allege to have the traits. For people who attended an Apple Developer Conference, they could claim that Jobs possessed charismatic qualities. Jobs applied impression management to establish a strong relationship with his colleagues advertently (Harvey 258-261).

Whenever he was in a meeting, he tried as much as possible to ensure that he impresses his audience. Besides, he had the power to influence the media to report what he wanted. These influences helped Steve to cover his dark side leading to the majority of employees trusting in all that he claimed to support (Sharma and Grant 21).

Jobs’ leadership style in Apple had always been a nightmare to the majority of staff members as well as to the media. Harvey posits, “Jobs’ ‘reality distortion field’ has always been a double-edged sword…Stories in Silicon Valley about Jobs’ narcissism, temper, epic tantrums, and bad behavior are as legendary as his feats” (263).

For instance, Deutschman documents a dramatic episode in which Jobs openly reprimanded a software programmer for not providing him with quality software. Yet, majority of the employees that had worked with Steve perceived him in a more empathetic manner.

Most of them felt that those opposed to Jobs’ policy misunderstand him. Jobs always sought to ensure that him, together with other employees give the best to the clients. However, his obsession for perfection made people misunderstand him and view him as bossy and arrogant.

Steve’s ability to forge and uphold a strong charismatic image with his employees, despite his character, was mainly because of efficient ‘stage management’. Stories about his negative side would never be released to the public.

Jobs used his charisma to make his employees believe that confidential matters like spontaneous products and business activities ought not to be made public.

In 2007, he used his influence to silence a website (ThinkSecret) that used to expose all the information regarding the company’s new products (Roche and Sadowsky 1-5).

For years, Steve Jobs used the company’s special events and conferences as platforms to correspond with the clients. For instance, Jobs enjoyed the privilege of opening every Macworld conference by addressing the participants.

This gave him an opportunity to use his charisma to lure people to buy to his policies. Besides the Macworld, Jobs always had an opportunity to meet his employees and board members during the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) (Sharma and Grant 25-26).

During the conference, he got an opportunity to display his latest innovations in terms of technology and software. This gave him an upper hand in his effort to sway the board members and other employees to his side.


One of the factors that made Steve Jobs a great business leader was that he was always guided by a particular objective in his life. He once alleged that his enthusiasm emanated from love, confidence, and loss and that he always factored in the three elements in all the decisions he made.

At the beginning, Steve applied his charisma and passion for perfection to influence employees and earn their respect. The two qualities helped him achieve a lot in the company though they later also saw him lose everything in a company he had worked tireless to see it grow.

Steve had a unique way of relating with staff as well as the suppliers. At one point, he could be very kind and motivating and all of a sudden turn and become thankless and demanding. This impulsive way of management gave him an opening to win the confidence of all the stakeholders since they barely knew what to anticipate from him.

The zeal and fervor that saw Jobs try to make Apple a perfect company later led to his dismissal from the company. Steve started blaming Sculley for the poor performance in the company. He went to the extent of claiming that the company could only perform if they allowed him to assume the company’s presidency.

These utterances and the subsequent plan to stage a coup in the company led to the board members taking away his powers in the company. He was given the role of a chairperson of the board members.

Steve did not receive this development kindly prompting him to leave the company and move to Europe where he embarked on promoting Apple II computers. The period he worked in Europe earned him a lot of experience and helped him change his leadership style as well as the dimension of interpreting issues.

As a leader in NeXT and Pixar, Steve Jobs learnt to accommodate the other people’s opinions. He no longer insisted on doing things his way.

The experience he acquired in the animation industry and in the manufacture of the operating system gave him an opportunity to return to Apple and eventually become its leader.

Works Cited

Appleyard, Bryan. “Steve Jobs: The man who polished Apple. The Sunday Times 16 Aug. 2009: 16. Print.

Awamleh, Robert, and William Gardner. “Perceptions of Leader Charisma and Effectiveness: The Effects of Vision Content, Delivery, and Organizational Performance.” Leadership Quarterly 10.3 (1999): 345-373. Print.

Boje, David. “Organizational storytelling: struggles of pre-modern, modern and postmodern organizational learning discourses.” Management Learning 25.1 (1994): 433-461. Print.

Bryman, Alan. “Charismatic Leadership in Business Organizations: Some Neglected Issues.” Leadership Quarterly 4.1 (2003): 289-304. Print.

Burrows, Peter, and Ronald Grover. “Steve Jobs’ Magic Kingdom.” BusinessWeek 27 Aug. 2006: 18. Print.

Conger, Jay, Richard Kanungo, and Sanjay Menon. “Charismatic leadership and follower effects.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 21.7 (2000): 747-767. Print.

Conger, Jay. “Inspiring others: The language of leadership.” Academy of Management Executive 5.1 (2000): 31-45. Print.

Conger, Jay. “Max Weber’s Conceptualization of Charismatic Authority: Its Influence on Organizational Research.” Leadership Quarterly 4.1 (1999): 277-288. Print.

Harvey, Arlene. “A dramaturgical analysis of charismatic leader discourse.” Journal of Organizational Change Management 14.3 (2001): 253 – 265. Print.

Roche, Loïck, and John Sadowsky. “Stories and Storytelling: An example of Best Practice of Leadership in a High-tech Environment.” Association of MBAs 1.3 (2004): 1-5. Print.

Sharma, Abz, and David Grant. “Narrative, drama and charismatic leadership: the case of Apple’s Steve Jobs.” Leadership 7.1 (2011): 13-26. Print.

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