In his book Business Ethics: A Case Study Approach, Stephen Henn stated that the most important qualities of a successful business leader include the ability to realize the potential of the employees to its fullest and create the environment for their engagement into the self, social and societal spheres.
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However, combining the ethical responsibilities with business targets and reaching a good balance between business ethics and effective performance is one of the greatest challenges faced by most business leaders. Why it is important to use business power responsibly is one of the greatest moral dilemmas of the modern business world.
This paper will discuss the biography of Steve Paul Jobs, well-known as a co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc. for investigating Jobs’ case and the balance between his quest for perfection and total control in their relation to business ethics as effective means for achieving the end results of prosperity of Apple.
Steve Paul Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple Computer in 1976. Regardless of the fact that he was one of the co-founders, in 1986 at the age of 30, Steve was fired by the board of directors of Apple. The main reasons leading to Job’s divorce from the company which he has co-founded were his willingness to dictate decisions and manipulate others which were noticed by other executives of Apple (Finkle and Mallin 34).
The conflict of egos and the dispute concerning the power structure of the company forced Jobs out of Apple. Being a co-founder, he preserved a substantial amount of the stock of Apple but remained only an advisor, while Apple went through three different CEOs with its stock price falling to $2 per share. At the same time, Jobs founded a new computer company ironically called the NeXT which produced computers for educational institutions and was aimed at competing with Apple.
It should be noted that five key employees from Apple joined Jobs in this new enterprise. It resulted in a lawsuit against Jobs for stealing the employees which however was rejected by the court. The NeXT Company was not very successful and notwithstanding all Jobs’ efforts, managed to sell only 50, 000 computers in eight years (Finkle and Mallin 34).
In 1986, Jobs bought the majority share of the computer graphics company Pixar from its creator George Lucas. Success came to Pixar after Jobs initiated the cooperation with Disney for distributing an hour long animated film Toy Story which received an Oscar and brought $ 358 million of worldwide theatre revenues (Finkle and Mallin 36).
In 1996, because of the problems experienced by Apple, Jobs was invited to return to the company. Jobs made the company to flourish with its stock price reaching the maximum of $ 200 per share in 2007. Though Apple was hit by the world crisis, it was still one of a few companies in all over the world able to operate almost without debt.
Jobs’ perfectionism, desire to total control and confidence can be viewed as his strongest assets or his biggest flaws depending upon the chosen perspective. On the one hand, these qualities were among the influential factors which enabled Jobs to lead Apple and Pixar to success. On the other hand, there were claims that Jobs exceeded his power, publicly humiliating some of the employees or impulsively hiring them.
Though most of Jobs’ decisions can be explained with his quest for perfection and the goal to realize the potential of the employees, there is evidence that in certain situations he failed to use his power responsibly. People who did not understand Jobs’ perfectionism described him as a tyrant, control freak and narcissist.
Others acknowledged his charisma but admitted that Jobs can transform from a charismatic leader to a tyrant and narcissist (Finkle and Mallin 34). As opposed to these complaints, Jobs himself admitted that the main reason for which his companies have become so successful is the strategy of hiring the best specialists in the world. With his own tireless work ethic, Jobs demanded his employees to work at their fullest potential.
At the same time, he could hire an employee who had not all the necessary skills and knowledge and create the conditions for developing his/her potential. Even during the times of the world crisis, Apple remained one of a few companies which continued to invest into Research and Development.
Jobs always had positive relationships with the brightest individuals who understood and appreciated his aim of reaching absolute excellence in everything. The situation in which five key employees left Apple to work in the NeXT Company with Jobs clearly demonstrates his ability to persuade people and his success as a leader.
Though the evidence on whether Jobs always used his power responsibly is rather controversial, it can be stated that his charisma and talent of realizing the full potential of his employees were important reasons preconditioning success of Apple, NeXT and Pixar.
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Analyzing the evidence of other people on Job’s moral behaviors as a business leader, his own assumptions concerning the importance of hiring the best people and realizing their full potential and the achieved results, it can be stated that he managed to achieve a good balance between ethics and effective performance of individual employees and his companies in general.
The tone at the top may have a significant impact upon the employees’ involvement and performance (Henn 100). However, attention to details and demand of absolute excellence in everything were parts of Jobs’ work ethics and could frighten and irritate only low-performing employees, while the brightest employees were fascinated with his talent and respected him as a leader.
At the same time, Jobs realized the importance of spending costs on Research and Development and provided the necessary training opportunities for his employees. Hiring young specialists, Jobs provided them with opportunities to gain necessary knowledge and skills.
Apart from Jobs’ cult of secrecy due to which employees could feel detached from the company’s core values, Jobs created favorable environment for the realization of the potential of his workers. In contrast to the criticism of some of Jobs’ managerial decisions, I consider his strategies as an effective solution of the moral dilemma of reaching a compromise between business ethics and success.
Coupled with his personal charisma, talents of negotiating, convincing others and predicting the desires of the consumers even before they themselves know about them, Jobs’ ability to reach the balance between ethics and high performance of his ventures preconditioned the enormous success of Apple and Pixar.
Acknowledging the success of Apple, it can be stated that the means used by its CEO Steve Paul Jobs were effective for achieving the end results of launching the world-known iMac, iPod and iPhone, receiving high revenues and operating virtually without a debt even during the world financial downturn.
Regardless of the accusations of narcissism, tyranny and ego-mania, Jobs reached a balance between his quest for perfection and attention to detail as elements of his business ethics and high performance of his companies as the end results of his efforts.
Finkle, Todd and Michael Mallin. “Steve Jobs and Apple, Inc.” Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies 16.7 (2010): 31-40. Print.
Henn, Stephen. Business Ethics: A Case Study Approach. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. Print.