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Discussion Prompt

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a controversial leader. On the one hand, he is credited with creating the most valuable company in the world. On the other hand, people say he was very difficult to work for. In this video, one of his former employees, Andy Miller (Links to an external site.)

His biographer wrote the following in an HBR article, “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” (April 2012):

The essence of Jobs, I think, is that his personality was integral to his way of doing business. He acted as if the normal rules didn’t apply to him, and the passion, intensity, and extreme emotionalism he brought to everyday life were things he also poured into the products he made. His petulance and impatience were part and parcel of his perfectionism.

One of the last times I saw him, after I had finished writing most of the book, I asked him again about his tendency to be rough on people. “Look at the results,” he replied. “These are all smart people I work with, and any of them could get a top job at another place if they were truly feeling brutalized. But they don’t.” Then he paused for a few moments and said, almost wistfully, “And we got some amazing things done.”

Using this topic as a prompt, please discuss the following questions:

  • How would you describe Steve Jobs’ leadership style? Cite one or more leadership theories from the textbook and describe how they fit. Many leadership theories could be applicable here.
  • What motivation theory best describes how Steve Jobs’ leadership motivated people? Do you agree or disagree that he had to be “rough” on people for them to be successful or could he have motivated them while also being a pleasant person to work for? Cite one or more motivation theories to support your argument. Describe why you agree or disagree with whether he had to be rough on people.
  • How do you think people would have responded to Steve Jobs’ leadership if he had been a woman? Please support your argument with theories from the textbook or other sources.
  • Whether you agree or disagree with Steve Jobs’ leadership style, what lessons can you take from this example for your own future leadership?

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