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Bill Gates Leadership Style Business Essay

The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers. Some people are thinkers. Some are prophets. Both roles are important and badly needed. But without followers, there can be no leaders. An effective leader is not someone who is loved or admired. He or she is someone whose followers do the right things. Popularity is not leadership. Hence, leaders are highly visible. They therefore set examples. (Lewis, Brian J, Jan/Feb99)

I completely agree with the above definition. In organizational context I believe leaders inspire their followers to achieve organizational goals. Through this essay I am going to compare and contrast leadership styles of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates though various leadership models. The arguments would be supported by references on leadership models linking with leadership styles of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

Steve Jobs Leadership Style:

Jobs was Creative in his decision-making. This coupled with his charismatic leadership and the his ability to adapt to changing market conditions was key driver behind Apple’s success. He assumed leadership positions that helped the organization to grow into a respectable technological company. The company contributed to the digital age in a remarkable way by introducing the first commercially successful graphical user interface in 1984 (Apple, Inc, 2006). Jobs creativity helped Apple to be an innovative organization. (Dr. Stephanie Solansky) Jobs when he returned back to Apple, the company was going through a terrible phase. The company required a charismatic leader to step and transform the company. Jobs stepped in and created a vision for the organization. Jobs greatest asset as a leader was that he could emotionally connect to employees, customers and shareholders. He vigorously focused on the needs of their customers, by improving the customer’s experience. He strived and established Apple’s working strategy which worked towards continuously increasing quality without increasing cost of producing.

(Timothy F Bednarz, Jan/Feb 2012).

Jobs handling of his employees were completely autocratic. He applied tyrannical leadership style – hire and fire at will – to ensure that his employees were always on their toes and delivered products of extremely high quality. Writes the American author Andrew Keen’s in his best-seller titled, The Cult of the Amateur, “There’s not an ounce of democracy at Apple. That’s what makes it a paragon of such traditional corporate values as top-down leadership, sharply hierarchical organization and centralized control. It’s Steve’s company – pursuing his vision, at his pace, with his team, making his products. Without Steve Jobs’ authoritarian leadership, Apple would be just another Silicon Valley outfit...” Colorado-based technology expert Rick Sturm, CEO of Enterprise Management Associates, says, “Steve Jobs is a special example of a leader who dominated his company employees and guided them rightly with his authoritarian leadership style and unmatchable vision. He believed that one man with one vision can make Apple an iconic brand and company. And we see that his belief has actually materialized.” (ARINDAM CHAUDHURI, April 26 2012). As Harry McCracken writes in Time magazine: “Jobs may have been inspiring, but he was also a high-maintenance co-worker” who labelled people who didn't impress him as “bozos”.

“We have an environment where excellence is really expected,” Jobs on his workforce. Jobs was able to exert this autocratic leadership because Jobs had gone through hard times and was able to come out of tough situations. In the time he was away from Apple, instead of lying low Jobs took, in his true charismatic style, new and difficult challenges. He bought Pixar, worked from scratch on it and transformed it from a tiny animation house to an industry leader responsible for films such as Toy Story. His start up company NeXT, was later bought by Apple.

(Sarah McInerney, Oct 7 2012)

His ability to come out successful from tough situations was source of inspiration for employees which further infused employees with an incredible passion to create groundbreaking products and a belief that they could accomplish what seemed impossible. His top players tended to be loyal and stick around longer than those at other companies. (Walter Isaacson, April 2012).

Far better than most leaders, Jobs intuitively understood the power of cultural influence which helped in sustaining the strategic capabilities embedded in his vision of creating, as he put it, “an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products...a company that will stand for something a generation or two from now.” Jobs created a competitive culture where teams worked in isolation competing with other teams in the same organization designing products. (Walter Isaacson, 2011).

Also Jobs had complete control about the organization. A study into the workplace culture of Apple published in May conducted by Fortune Magazine found that Jobs's control was to the extreme minute level extending as far as the design of the company bus and also the food served at the cafeteria. In its interviews with former employees Fortune found that Jobs encouraged a culture of strict accountability at all levels of the organisation by meeting each Monday with executives to set the tone for the week. Jobs reviewed each and every product development team in these meetings. (Sarah McInerney, Oct 7th 2012)

Jobs had weakness in people management skills. His stormy and abusive behavior with employees was not very popular among the employees. There were other ways he could have motivated his team. “Steve’s contributions could have been made without so many stories about him terrorizing folks,” Apple’s cofounder, Wozniak,said. (Walter Isaacson, April 2012)

Bill Gates Leadership Style:

Bill Gates started Microsoft with a vision “that every desktop would require a computer “. As an entrepreneur he was not averse to risk taking, he left his studies mid way from Harvard to start writing software programmes. Gates is one of the most successful business men of this generation.

Comparing leadership style with Steve Jobs, though Gates followed transformational model of leadership but as Microsoft slowly moved into a large organization he moved into transactional model of leadership. Though he was the power centre of his organization his leadership was participative style because he involved his subordinate in decision making. He was a flexible person and he recognized his role was to be visionary of the company. When ever needed he recruited professional managers for managing and enhancing structure of the organization. Gates was a strong and energizing person at Microsoft. His enthusiasm, hard working nature, judgment skills depicted his personality. (Dip Kumar Dey, 3rd Aug 2009).

Gates also believed in Develop your people to do their jobs better than you can. He believed that a manager should transfer his skills to his subordinates. He believed that many smart managers would like their team members to own more responsibility so that the managers can tackle new challenging tasks. Gates believed in personally communicating with his employees so that he can know any reservations which employees have about the organization. He always wanted to know what the employees are thinking about the company. Gates believed that individuals should work in a team cohesively and share their ideas. He also expected knowledge sharing between different teams. (Mike R. Jay, Happeneur, 1997 by Bill Gates)

Involving people was Gates biggest strength and this helped Microsoft to pass through at least two major technological transitions from programming to graphical computing, and from the desktop to the Internet. He also directed Microsoft’s diversification from programming languages to desktop operating systems, applications, enterprise software, video games, and the MSN online. Gates like Jobs was a charismatic leader whom employees would look for inspiration. Though Gates unlike Jobs never used this charisma to influence employee behaviour. Gates learned how to manage, delegate, and lead thousands of extremely smart, talented people. He continues to set the standard for other high-technology entrepreneurs- turned-CEOs. Gates like Jobs believed in hiring the best talent available but applied contingency theories where from a very autocratic leadership he shifted his stance to much less autocratc style .

Bill Gates has moved to philanthropy. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is currently the largest charitable foundation in the world. The foundation is extremely transparent as benefactors have access to information regarding how its money is being spent.

Though his leadership is exemplary but still Bill Gates couldn’t really reinvent Microsoft and substantiate its position in multimedia and digital medium. Also during his final years as stint of CEO of Microsoft communication with his organization slowed and provided little clarity. (Micheal Cusumano, January 2009).

Though Steve Jobs and Bill Gates exhibited different types of leadership, both were successful in their own right. Their styles were affected by their backgrounds but both have left tremendous legacy. Bill Gates leadership style places him with to be one of the most influential transformational leaders who have inspired the masses to share his vision. With philanthropy he is enhancing people life across the globe where he can influence. At 17 years old, Bill Gates was quoted as “wanting to rule the world”, Now with significant leadership power, perhaps he wants to rule a world that is more like him- Intelligent, strong willed, charismatic, and transformational through his philanthropic work influencing people life. (Romeo Santos, Nov 14 2011)

While for Steve Jobs when the author Walter Isaacson asked Jobs what he thought was his most important creation, thinking he would answer the iPad or the Macintosh. Instead he said it was “”Apple the company. Making an enduring company, he said, was both far harder and more important than making a great product”.( Walter Isaacson, 24 October 2011) .Jobs left Apple an enduring company and iconic brand as his legacy by virtue of leadership.


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