Steve Jobs and Entrepreneurialship

College dropouts Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer in April 1976. The 1984 launch of the Macintosh computer finally moved Apple into the business office, and by 1988, over one million Mac’s had been sold. Jobs stunned the world with the 1984 Super bowl commercial, and literally changed computing for all time (Appleseed, 1984). Now, Apple designs, develops, produces markets and services microprocessor-based personal computers, related software and peripheral products, including laser printers, scanners, compact disk read-only memory drives and other related products; and manufactures communications products that connect Apple systems to local area networks, connect the Macintosh to other computers and integrate the Macintosh into various computing environments. One of Apple’s most successful new products is considered by many to be the current “ultimate” smart phone — the iPhone, capturing over 40 million sales in 2010 alone, and almost 20 million in Q1 2011 alone. Combined with the I-Pod, Apple remains a global icon and technological force (Garside & Arthur 2011). In fact, with Apple guru Steve Jobs’ passing, Apple and Jobs now receive almost “superstar” mythology (Schaefer 2012).

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Briefly, Jobs was born in 1955, the son of Syrian immigrants. He moved to California and attended Homestead High School in Cupertino, where he met Steve Wozniak. He was not successful in College, dropping out of Portland’s Reed College. He took a job at Atari in 1973, his supervisor noting that he was often the smartest person in the room, but he was sure to let everyone know that. He spent some time in India, and by 1975 had collaborated with Wozniak in several small, some illegal, adventures. In 1976, they founded Apple Computer and began selling circuit boards. The rest is history — moving from the Apple to the Apple II to the Macintosh and then onto phones, music devices and computers that pushed the design and technical limits of the industry.

Jobs was removed from Apple in 1985 over a power struggle with CEO John Scully, whom Jobs had lured away from PepsiCo. Jobs briefly toyed with the idea of opening a computer company in the Soviet Union and of being a Civilian Space Shuttle pilot, but eventually designed and opened up a new company, NeXT computers. NeXt was acquired by Apple in 1997, but Jobs was already well into another venture, Pixar and Disney. Despite some early challenges, there were a number of successes in animated films, causing Disney to purchase Pixar in an .4 billion (Linzmayer, 2004).

Jobs came back to Apple in 1996 and named interim CEO in September 1997. To return Apple to profitability, he terminated a number of products, changed the licensing requirements on the Macintosh, and branched out to improve other digital appliances. Until he resigned as CEO in August of 2011, however, Jobs moved Apple into not simply a computer operation, but an electronics and communications mega-giant. At the time of his death on October 5, 2011, Jobs’ wealth was estimated at over $8 billion (Forbes, 2011)

Leadership Style and Culture

For organizations of all types, the last three decades have been crucial in changing the manner in which organizations interact with each other, stakeholders, the government, and themselves. Most of these changes occurred because of the evolution of globalization, which after the Cold War, increased cooperation between nations and regions while, at the same time, increased stakeholder expectations, opened hundreds of new markets, and now requires that organizations operate on a new level. Particularly after the Enron scandal, stakeholders expect more transparency and honesty from business. In fact, a recent survey found that 74% want to know more about the ethical stance and the nature of a company prior to purchasing from them. At the same time, 92% of FTSE 100 companies provide no metrics, benchmarks, or quantitative measurements within their annual report (Suter 2012).

This very real conundrum is at the heart of the manner in which modern businesses have changed in the 21st century: new technologies, new methods of delivering messages, new expectations, and new products. Businesses have also undergone a change in its overall philosophy — not just moving toward entrepreneurial thought as a way to change their marketing paradigm, but through consumer and corporate expectations of business in a more ethical and sustainable manner. Equally, the culture and innovation of Apple is inexorably tied to Steve Jobs — and through that he is recognized as one of the seminal pioneers of the personal computer revolution and the transformation of consumer electronics, “one industry after another, from computers and Smartphones to music and movies” (Sarno & Goffard 2011).

Jobs did not have a singular leadership style, but one that evolved over time. He eventually became a charismatic leader “most of the time,” but as with any theoretical precept, nothing is always true or never true — it is part of the of styles. Most everyone who encountered Jobs at any level said he was aggressive and demanding. Hey was frequently quoted as saying that most people are not used to an environment that expects excellence as the norm. One of Jobs’ skills, though, was to use a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole; marketing and persistence to help other people (employees and customers) see the possibilities and potential of a product and of innovation. The term used for this, taken from a Star Trek episode, was that Jobs had again evoked the Reality Distortion Field, a way Jobs swayed the public regarding new product announcements (Furber, 2008)

For organizations that are movers and shakers, the new leader, particularly the charismatic leaders, is one who has managerial ability to make appropriate decisions at the right time, in the right way, and using the right resources (Drucker, 2007). Many see Jobs’ success focusing on his charismatic leadership style, which evolved over the years as the product lines developed and competition heightened. The charismatic leader tends to personify confidence and vision, but still manages to bring a special “chemistry” to the entire organization. They have high motivational skills, and have the ability to use their positive personality traits to make subordinates “feel” the vision. There are five key behaviors most scholars agree are indicative of charismatic leadership in the modern world:




Jobs as Paradigm

Challenge the process

Avoid the status quo, innovate and encourage dissent.

Just because something “has been this way for years” does not mean it is right.

Worked to overturn the DOS and IBM manner of Operating Systems and redefine computer culture.

Inspire a shared vision

Communicate and be open, share goals.

Meet with employees and managers to share strategic and tactical goals encourage communication.

Included Apple employees in a number of innovations and beta tests.

Enable others to Act

Be the kind of leader that makes it easy for others to be successful

Clear boundaries, find resources, make way for the doers.

Challenged departments to use their insights to come up with new ways of envisioning technology.

Model the way

Be mindful that actions speak louder than words

Walk the talk and talk the walk

Continually preached the Apple way at conventions, through the media, to the board, and was a coach on a daily basis when on Apple’s campus.

Encourage the heart

Don’t forget your humanity

People are people, what ties us together ultimately is our humanity.

Even after being ousted in 1985 Jobs continued to encourage the heart of Apple, pushed the NeXT and Pixar organizations, and knew he would be back to Apple soon.

(Cited from: Kouszes, 1994).

Charismatic leadership can often be less formal and more psychological than simply managing. Charismatic leaders are always pushing the envelope, challenging the status quo. They tend to look at the current situation and ask: “What can we do better?” Charismatic leaders rarely wait for things to happen — they make them happen by inspiring their own unique vision. The charismatic leader believes in the role of human resources as one of the primary assets of the organization. They inspire by looking at the emotional, as well as intellectual, needs of their staff. The charismatic leaders is a lightning rod for change management. They are rarely content unless the organization is rapidly evolving, improving technologically and in the market. More than anything, the true charismatic leader moves the process — motivates the resources — and typically succeeds based on personal charisma backed with sound and thoughtful judgment (Shea & Howell, 1999). All these traits embodied the Jobs’ style.

Jobs changed and evolved as a manager — the pre and post 1985 years were quite important to him. He noted that after 1985 he had time to think and regroup a bit and formed his idea of management from the Rock Group The Beatles. In this he meant that each one of the Beatles were key to the success of the group — and these key people kept others in check and kept the group focused on what it could do best. Once they split up, their music just was not as good. He believed this was the same for him, and his job — keep the key people doing what they were best at that exemplified the organization. Moreover, while he was still impatient, tough and unforgiving; these trends mellowed to the point that he realized that pushing people to their best was different than pushing them off their game (Palis, 2012)

From the Apple perspective there a number of personality traits that aided Jobs becoming one of the most innovative entrepreneurial thinkers of the 20th century. Jobs had an unbelievable imagination — moving from not just competitive thinking, but building a company under the very real assumption that Apple’s products would change the world. If we think about Jobs’ designs of interactive and innovative design from the very beginning of Apple, we find that many of the products (Mac, iPhone, iPod, etc.) are now part of the modern product lexicon. At any number of points Jobs risked the company as well as his own reputation to push the company and employees to the limits and finding reward in most items; not letting negative feedback and occasional product failures (e. g. The Lisa) get in his way (Himmel 2013)

Entrepreneurial Thinking

Trends in globalism, stakeholder knowledge and technology — all part of the 21st century environment, have changed organizational behavior from a more monolithic approach to society to a model that has actually been in place for centuries yet has now found a way to move from the small business environment to the larger organizational model simply because its strengths are just what is needed to perform in a new environment. This concept, entrepreneurship, has its origins in the French verb entreprendre, meaning “to undertake” (Hultman, C., et al., 2011) More than anything else, the idea of entrepreneurship is a mind-set, a mode of operation as opposed to a strict method; a style of thinking — the difference between management and leadership, and the amount of tenacity necessary to successfully complete a project. From the Western model, entrepreneurship is about growth opportunities, motivation and a style of approaching the impossible to make it possible. In fact, the very nature of capitalism and modern growth and opportunities depend on culture, economic conditions, and essential, the idea of risk vs. reward. Steve Jobs, as both a manager and an innovator, epitomized the entrepreneurial style of the modern organization — looking forward, taking risk, thinking on the edge, and above all looking for product ideas that were iconic and life changing (See: (Silicon Valley Historical Association 2013).

One seminal example of this type of approach to the market was Jobs’ contribution and support of the now iconic 1984 Super Bowl Commercial launch of the Macintosh. Apple’s new computer concept, the Macintosh, changed computing forever. It was introduced to the world on January 24, 1984 and was the first commercially successful personal computer that featured a mouse, a built in graphical interface and a small footprint. The first Mac’s had 512K built in, a great deal of computing power for those days and was most famous for its unique “point and click” desktop and built in paint and word-processing software. It was announced to the press in October 1983, followed by an 18-page brochure in a number of strategic periodicals that same December (Digi Barn Computer Museum, 2004).

Jobs hired Hollywood director Ridley Scott to direct a $1.5 million dollar commercial that aired during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984. This commercial is still considered a watershed even in the history of advertising and to some, “a masterpiece.” In general, the commercial plays off the Orwellian classic “1984”but showing an unnamed heroine jogging in slow motion towards a “Big Brother” screen. On her white athletic top is an iconic, Picasso style picture of a Macintosh. This representation tells the world that the Mac can, and will, save the world from the IBM Big Brother by crashing through the barriers of same old for new and innovative. When the commercial was presented to Apple management, John Sculley was apprehensive, thinking that it might be too heavy handed or esoteric for the public on Super Bowl Sunday. Steve Jobs insisted that the Macintosh deserved something new and radical, so on the strength of Ridley Scott’s Alien and Blade Runner (note, both had that dark, futuristic look about them), shooting was approved. It was difficult to cast the heroine, most models had neither the grace or the skill to spin the sledgehammer, but one, Anya Major, was also a discus thrower and fit the psychographics of the plot ((Leopold, 2006; Wired Magazine 2007).

Jobs and Apple’s Sales staff went wild when the saw the preview. However, when presented to the Board, the response was stunned silence. Not a single Board member liked the commercial, and while the did not demand the commercial be axed, Scully did sell: 30 already purchased of ad time. He left the actual decision to William Cambpell, VP of marketing. If they could not sell the remaining Super Bowl: 60 and decided against airing 1984, a backup plan was created. This was a commercial called Manuals, a product benefit spot that challenged consumers to decide which of the platforms, Apple or IBM, was more sophisticated. Jobs lobbied and pushed Campbell’s group until they decided to use 1984 to launch a 100-day advertising blitz at a cost of $15 million. The commercial aired to an audience of 96 million people, and immediately, the calls came in, garnering an excess of $5 million in free publicity. All three television networks and almost 50 local stations aired news stories about the spot, most replaying it completely, and hundreds of newspapers and magazines wrote stories. In fact, the Nielsen rating company estimated the commercial reached 46.4% of American households. It also received unprecedented recall scores and won the Grand Prize of Cannes and 30 other advertising industry awards. Thanks largely to Steve Jobs, “it broke all the rules; and the reaction has been, in a word, unprecedented” (Hayden, 1984).

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