Steve Jobs is CEO and co-founder of Apple Inc., one of the most innovative companies in American business history. Apple Inc. has maintained a dominant position as an icon within the consumer electronics marketplace for more than a decade. The company has been described as "the most admired company in the United States" by Fortune magazine. Although Jobs co-founded Apple, he was once ousted from the company, only to return as CEO twelve years later. Jobs is an example of a passionate entrepreneur who has succeeded by exerting an intense degree of control over every aspect of the company that he has built, "right down to the food in the company cafeteria" (Lashinsky).
Apple Inc. began in Steve Job's father's garage during the 1970s. In the beginning, the only product that the company offered was the Apple II computer. Advertising for the company, which reflected Jobs' own inspirational mission, invited consumers to participate in the Apple mystique through purchase of its electronic products. The products were portrayed as tools that were also toys, for those individuals wishing to be inspired to live the life more fully through their use.
Jobs reinforced the Apple by charisma through the use of slogans like "Think Different", and "Changing the world â€¦ all in a day's work at Apple" (applemuseum.com). Apple products were visually striking in ways that other computer manufacturers, who were preoccupied with function, did not offer to the same degree. The high level of visual design offered by Apple products, along with technological innovation and inspirational advertising, drove consumers in large numbers to choose Apple over other PC products.
Dell and Hewlett-Packard, two of Apple's competitors, have never been able to match the ability of Jobs to attract devotion, both from customers and employees. Worldwide, business executives wonder about the "mystery that virtually every business executive in the world would love to understand: How does Apple do it?". Jobs does not seem to stick to any particular leadership theory; he does not always treat workers with kindness, and has been compared to an old-fashioned industrial titan for his demanding methods. Apple "is a brutal and unforgiving place, where accountability is strictly enforced, decisions are swift, and communication is articulated clearly from the top". Despite this, Apple maintains a reputation as a "cool company", which maintains its power over the imagination of the consumer by producing consistently iconic products.
Jobs' talents extend well beyond the management of Apple, with the launch of popular products such as the iPod and the iPad. Jobs' desire to enchant users through visual appeal that appears magical is a reflection of the fact Jobs founded another company, Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar Animation Studios has produced popular films such as "Finding Nemo", "The Incredibles", "Cars", and other animated films that became extremely successful through technological innovation. In 2006, Pixar Animated Studios was acquired by The Walt Disney Company; Jobs retains a role with Pixar as a member of the Disney Board of Directors (apple.com).
In hiring senior personnel, Jobs requires any prospective employee to first "fall in love with Apple". In a 2008 interview, Jobs described his unconventional leadership methods to Fortune magazine:
"We've got 25,000 people at Apple â€¦ my job is to work with the top 100 people â€¦ That doesn't mean that they're all vice presidents. Some of them are just key contributors â€¦ when a good idea comes â€¦ my job is just to move it around, just to see what different people think about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people to explore different aspects of it quietly" (Fortune.com).
This method of calling upon the creative talents of a team of 100 people, utilizes deep collaboration and cross-pollination to generate enviable results. In describing his criteria for selecting senior personnel for the company, Jobs emphasized that competence is important, but he looks for something more. The employee must decide to "fall in love with Apple. Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They'll want to do what's best for Apple, not what's best for them, best for Steve, or anyone else". Jobs admitted that the process of screening for such an employees is laborious and time-consuming, likening it to "finding a needle in a haystack".
Jobs exemplifies the devotion that he expects from employees, leading through personal charisma and a fanatical devotion to excellence, with an intense focus on design combined with technological innovation. Jobs has displayed a violent temper when a product launch has failed, or quality standards have not been met. Although Apple emphasizes that all workers are encouraged to participate in collaboration in order to enhance design excellence, Jobs takes an interest in the smallest details of every Apple product. According to a former Apple manager, Jobs would "scrutinize everything, down to the pixel level".
While Apple employees are required to "fall in love with Apple", and remain willing to do so as Jobs requires, the company has attained a double victory in applying the Apple mystique to the imagination of consumers worldwide. Jobs surrounds Apple products with a magical aura, which inspires strong devotion to every new product that is released by the company. For consumers, purchasing an Apple computer involves initiation into an exclusive club. Yet Jobs appears to be led by inspiration, and not calculations about what the marketplace expects.
One former senior vice president at Apple,wrote: "Rare among corporate leaders, Steve [Jobs] has never made decisions based on a concern for market reaction. He simply is not influenced by whether investors and market analysts will think he's doing the right thing. But the financial community has come to have confidence in him: his track record for making the right decisions is hard to argue with".
Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, when the company had fallen into severe financial distress. One of the changes that Jobs made to Apple products at that time was to emphasize innovative visual design, and consumers immediately responded to the beauty of the electronic devices. The high level of design gives adults the experience of owning a powerful, sleek, colorful toy that can do magic through the power of electronics. Although some users have hesitated to purchase the recently released iPad, stating that the device is limited by the use of Apple applications, Apple products continue to gain adherents or a lot of fans around the world. Young consumers, who might be expected to resist the high price point of Apple products, consistently await the company's products launches.
Jobs have struggled with a serious illness for the past decade, even as he has successfully built Apple into an icon of the electronics market space. When Jobs illness became public, the future of Apple seemed to be in danger. Yet Jobs has carefully groomed Apple COO Tim Cook to assume many of the duties of a CEO. During a famous speech given in 2009, Cook described the deep resources of the company in terms of its employees:
"There is an extraordinary breadth and depth and tenure among the Apple executive team, and these executives lead over 35,000 employees that I would call "all wicked smart" ... in all areas of the company, from engineering to marketing to operations and sales and all the rest â€¦ the values of our company are extremely well entrenched.
'We believe that we're on the face of the Earth to make great products, and that's not changing. We're constantly focusing on innovating ...
'We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot ... those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well (Cohen).
For the present, Jobs is still at the helm of Apple, yet it is evident that Tim Cook and other employees at the company are prepared to carry the Jobs vision of design innovation and excellence after his departure. Although Jobs is expected to take an early retirement due to illness, the Apple formula for success is clearly understood by Cook and other senior personnel at the company. Jobs use of deep collaboration and cross-pollination of groups within the company to propel innovative technology and design will continue to thrill consumers, and his vision as a great American entrepreneur will survive.