Steve Jobs’ and Tim Cook’s Leadership Styles

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Leadership plays an important role in success of any organization irrespective of whether it is a service or production company. Excellent leadership helps individuals, groups, and the entire organization to adapt to the new changes and appreciate the prevailing conditions. Change is a big challenge to many organizations, hence good leadership is required to ensure people cope with the new work requirements. In the modern organizations, leaders are required to be innovative and highly knowledgeable because this would help them survive in the highly competitive environment (Maxwell 2007). Apple is one of the companies, which are considered successful globally, and this is attributed to the good leadership that the company has experienced right from its inception to the moment. Steve Jobs was the best leader the company ever had because he was highly innovative and competent in terms of establishing the market needs and satisfying the customers. The leader encouraged employees to plan their work, develop careers, deliver high results, connect work with important initiatives, and rejuvenate skills (McManus 2006).

In summary, the leadership style of Steve Jobs can be described as adaptive, focused, visionary, and innovative. He was visionary because he never advocated for duplicating what was already in the market, as he always believed that the company was able to introduce something new. Unlike other managers who believe that an ordinary thing can be done differently, Jobs had a different perspective since he was sure that his employees will stun the world with new things. For instance, he oversaw the development of an iPad, which has revolutionized the way in which businesses operate. Steve is widely known for his speech whereby he claimed:

“Everything around us that we call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you”. He went on to claim, “you can build your own life that other people can live in, so build a life and don’t live one (Miller 2012, p. 34)”.

Steve was an excellent leader who took time to understand the customer needs and develop a product to satisfy them by utilizing the available resources in the organization (Sadler 2003). On the other hand, Tim Cook is an individual who believes in collaboration, because he thinks that product improvement is ensured through continuous research. In one of the interviews with the Business Insider Magazine, he was quoted claiming:

You look for people who appreciate different points of view. People who care enough that they have an idea at 11 at night and they want to call and talk to you about it. Because they’re so excited about it, they want to push the idea further and they believe that somebody can help them push the idea another step instead of them doing everything themselves.

In this proposal, various leadership styles and skills of the two prosperous leaders, Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, are discussed. The paper is focused on bringing out the explicit value of strategic and innovative leadership as far as their applicability in the success of the organization is concerned (Schuttler & Burdick 2010). In this regard, the proposal identifies a few leadership variables, both primary and secondary, which are responsible for the success of the business. The variables that are likely to be discussed in understanding the tenets of effective leadership include commitment in the management role, involvement of employees in making decisions, analyzing the conditions at the workplace, prevention and mitigation and risks, frequent training of workers, advocating for innovation, and promoting efficient operation (Sipe & Frick 2009, p. 112). Management commitment is an important aspect of leadership that entails participation meaning the top manager has to work closely with other stakeholders to realize the company dream. Other important issues to consider concerning management commitment include establishing a quality assurance committee and serving it, drafting and introducing quality policies and strategies, offering adequate resources for training and talent development, ensuring policies are implemented, and finally evaluating and revising the policies based on the realized results.

Participatory leadership, which entails involvement of workers in policy formulation, is an important aspect that any leader has to consider. Irrespective of whether the goals and objectives are being met, the leader should analyze the performance of workers at the workplace. Some issues, such as family related problems, might interfere with goal achievement and it is the role of the top leader to put in place measures to prevent this (Watson 2006). Additionally, risks should be prevented at all costs because they have the potential of interfering with the performance of the organization. For instance, the organization has to keep off from venturing in risky projects, as they might result in great losses. Continuous training of workers ensures constant production, as they will never fall short of ideas. In fact, training facilitates innovation and efficient production (Kolenda 2001).

Research Background

The technology industry is always full of challenges because companies are expected to keep up with emerging technologies while, at the same time, observe high ethical standards. Apple is not any different because the company has experienced some of the worst failures including the design crimes and bully tactics (Sipe & Frick 2009). However, the demands of the market environment forced the company to apply all available techniques to achieve success. Much of Apple’s successes are attributed to the efficient leadership tactics of Steve Jobs (Adetule 2011). After failing terribly to achieve his dreams through formal education, Steve Jobs sought an alternative in the computer industry by collaborating with Wozniak to form Apple Computers. Steve Jobs had to work extremely hard going to an extent of disposing his only car to fund the expensive venture. Computers were massive at the time and extremely expensive and ordinary Americans had no financial possibilities to buy them (Annabelle 2006, p. 17).

Literature Review

Steve Jobs was determined to achieve his ambitions in the technology industry since he established a small company named NeXt, which specialized in small animations (Bass 2005, p. 54). The new company was highly successful with Steve Jobs as the director. He encouraged his workers to offer the best to the organization. However, a number of employees had no option other than quit because of the Jobs’s leadership manner. The founder of Pixar, a sister company to Jobs’ firm, supported the leadership style of Jobs by claiming, “You need a lot more than vision-you need a stubbornness, tenacity, belief, and patience to stay the course” (Bell 2005, p. 32). Steve Jobs insisted on teamwork and loyalty whereby each employee had the role to play in the manufacturing of the product. However, workers had to obey their seniors and ensure that any important information is channelled through the organization’s structures. His believe was that the right people were required in the organization for any success to be achieved, but the final decision rested with the top manager (Blanchard & Cathy 2002).

His work ethics was based on the spiritual mantra, which encouraged innovation, something that makes a difference between a leader and a follower. Pixar succeeded in overcoming the stiffest competition in the country, but NeXt never had a chance to outdo the well-established market leaders. In 1997, Steve Jobs accepted to merge of his company with his former employers, Apple (Aquinas 2006). This enabled him to take over the highest position in the new arrangement, as he was named the chief executive officer. His leadership revitalized the company that was on its knees. The company developed the best products ever, including iPod, iPhone, iTunes, and iPad (Clawson 2011). The mobile communication industry, music sector, and healthcare received a boost through the new apple products. Competition and the nature of the market drove Steve Jobs to design the best products. Asked whether he commissioned research to establish what the consumer wants, he replied, “None, it’s not the consumer’s job to know what they want” (Collins 2001, p. 26).

Steve Jobs applied his life and professional experiences to strengthen the performance of Apple, particularly when it came to designing of products, which made the company one of the best globally. He was critical of existing behaviour in the technology industry complaining that various companies lacked diverse experiences that made them not to connect, hence ending up with linear solutions that did not have broad perspectives on the problems that affected consumers. In his view, the understanding of human experiences helps one design better products (Ferch & Spears 2011). In 2004, the Apple faced a rare challenge after discovering that Steve Jobs was suffering from cancer, however, this did not prevent Jobs from producing the best products in the market that would make his company the best in the world. At this time, Apple developed the iTunes, which is the biggest retailer in the music industry in the United States. The MacBook Air brand is another product that Steve Jobs designed while fighting with cancer. At the same time, the sales of iPod and the iPhone surprised many people in the country consequently changing the ways in which individuals utilized the content and linked up with each other (Flint 2012).

Jobs’ main role was simply to facilitate the development of the ideas with an aim of ensuring nothing goes wrong in the process. Junior employees had the right and the freedom of suggesting any ideas, but they had to seek the guidance of top manager before going on to introducing them in the organization (Gallos 2008). Transformational leaders are motivating because they empower their followers to achieve the highest results possible. Steve Jobs organized meetings frequently to encourage his workers to develop the best products. Jobs inspired them through his rare beliefs and personal strength having gone through various problems in life. Many people considered him a business genius because he never stepped in any class to learn management, but he ended up leading the largest organization in the world (Hughes, Ginnett & Curphy 2012).

From this analysis, it is established that the leadership of Steve Jobs was characterized by participation, transformation, and autocracy. Participative type of leadership is a characteristic of any corporate body where leaders are supposed to be facilitators rather than being dictators. Even though Steve Jobs ensured that any technology employed and applied in the company had his blessings, he was always quick to consult his juniors to determine the types of strategies they had for the company. Before the return of Steve Jobs in 1997 as the interim chief executive, Apple had just lost close to one billion dollars (Kouzes & Posner 2012). The shares of the company were trading at four dollars each, but the current returns are amazing given the fact the company registered a profit of fourteen billion dollars last year with its shares trading at $370 each.

Steve Jobs was able to succeed in managing the affairs of apple by applying autocratic leadership style. This type of leadership focused on controlling individuals with the aim of making them fulfil the goals of the organization (Kouzes & Posner 2003). The leader had the authority to made decisions with very little effort from members. All the decisions made in the company were based on the ideas and judgments of Steve Jobs since the leader rarely accepted the decisions of the followers. The board of the company trusted Jobs with the decision-making responsibility, something that reinforced his autocratic leadership style. Studies show that application of autocratic leadership style is beneficial to the growth and development of any company. In the technology industry, decisions should always be made faster because of the challenges involved. The projects that the company aspired to accomplished, including the development of the iPod and iPhones, needed string leadership, as this would ensure quicker and efficient accomplishment. Consultations could have derailed the projects mainly because of the poor organization and the inability of groups to beat strict deadlines (Matha & Boehm 2008).

Allowing Jobs to be a sole decision-maker facilitated assignment of tasks to members and setting of deadlines for the projects. This allowed each department in the organization to focus on task accomplishment without worrying about the complex decisions that have to be made in the course of the manufacturing processes. Additionally, autocratic leadership helped group members to acquire high skills as far as performance of duties was concerned. When a leader is allowed to apply autocratic leaderships, chances are high that he or she will become bossy, dictatorial, and controlling, but the case was different with Steve Jobs because he played his role faithfully (Miller 2012).

Since the departure of Steve Jobs, the new management under the leadership of Tim Cook has ensured that quality is maintained at Apple. However, the new realities of the market have forced the current leader to apply different leadership skills. Diversifying leadership is an important aspect in the modern organization because of the stiff competition and the changing work environment (Schuttler & Burdick 2010). A close analysis of the modern organizational culture reveals that people from different backgrounds are needed in the organization because they have diverse ideas that benefit the company. In terms of innovation, workers provide different ideas, and relying on one person for product development and design might be costly for the organization. Cook is aware of this reality and he has moved on to making this a cornerstone of his leadership philosophy. In one of the interviews with the local station he noted:

We want diversity of thought, we want diversity of style, and we want people to be themselves. It’s this great thing about Apple. You don’t have to be somebody else and you don’t have to put on a face when you go to work and be something different. The thing that ties us all is we’re brought together by values. We want to do the right thing. We want to be honest and straightforward. We admit we’re wrong and have the courage to change (Northouse 2010, p. 9).

The existing state of affairs calls on each global organization, including Apple, to exercise high standards of transparency in order to retain customers and win their loyalty. Tim Cook was forced to rise to the occasion when allegations were raised against the company for mistreating employees at the Faxconn production plant. He went public and invited the entire world to see the way in which Apple operates. The company created goodwill globally and it was a lesson to other actors in the industry (Polelle 2008). Autocratic style of leadership was first applied by Steve Jobs in the company and the current leader is also keen on utilizing it in ensuring compliance from employees. The role of Tim Cook is to issue orders and assign duties without necessarily getting the views of employees. In the technology industry, supervision is always critical because of the constant changes.

Research objectives

Taking the role and importance of different leadership styles into consideration, this particular research study aims to analyse the degree to which different leadership styles influence the quality of organisational performance with reference to the Apple Inc,. Sub-objectives include:

  1. To analyse the importance of different leadership styles in management of an organization.
  2. To explore the different leadership styles adopted by Steve Jobs and Tim Cook towards steering the Apple Inc to its current position.
  3. To investigate the impact of different leadership styles on the quality of organisational communication with reference to the Apple Inc.

Research questions

  1. What is the relevance of leadership styles in different organizational performances?
  2. How effective are different leadership styles in the orientation of organizational performance with reference to the Apple organization?
  3. How effective is the role of innovative and strategic leadership in business sustainability?

Research hypothesis

Null hypothesis: Different leadership styles have an influence on the quality of organisational innovation and strategic performance at Apple Inc.

Alternative hypothesis: Different leadership styles do not have an influence on the quality of organisational innovation and strategic performance at Apple Inc.

Significance of the study

Organizational leadership efficiency influences the level of performance of an organization and business sustainability amidst rivalry (Kang & Singh 2006). This study will reveal the most appropriate leadership styles that encourage competence and sustainability of organizational communication. It will be a compilation of the best leadership practices at the Apple Company, as promoted by Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. The study will also provide recommendations on how managers can effectively supervise their organizational innovation and strategic performance in order to guarantee efficiency and competitiveness.


Research Design

This proposal will be carried out through qualitative method. The researcher settled on the qualitative method rather than a quantitative since the study is purposeful, personal, dynamic, and inventive oriented. The qualitative approach is suitable in obtaining the right position into the condition of the case study. I will also use thematic study to establish the existing themes. This type of investigation is expressed as inductive and a number of qualitative analyses are usually inductive in the preliminary stages, especially when the observer is trying to identify categories, patterns, and themes. As such, I am hopeful that by employing the process of going through and re-interpreting the data, new themes within the gathered data sets can be acknowledged. Thematic analysis plays an important role of helping the researcher to demonstrate obstinacy. Having other individuals re-examine the text will facilitate their formation of themes from the data.

When the reviewers have finished their reassessment of all the collected data, they will come together as a group, present and talk about their acknowledged categories and themes derived from the data, and categorize the ordinary subjects. I will then review these main themes and utilize this information to help in setting up the key conclusions of the study. This method of data examination is suitable to a qualitative design study. Several competencies are involved in thematic analysis. One such skill is pattern detection, which is the capability to see prototypes in a broad collection of information. Content analysis entails going through the data to identify familiar words or themes. I will make use of both of these competencies to categorize common subjects. With such an examination, I will obtain the findings in an impartial way to guarantee consistency. The research will employ positivism as a theoretical concept. This implies that the study will depend on dispassionate observation as a basis of methodical information, in this case the researcher is separate and disconnected from the subject under observation.

Data Collection

There will be two key techniques used to collect information used in the study. The first one will be the utilization of a questionaire administered online. The questionaire will aspire to capture a variety of elements regarding the feelings of individuals who worked with the two leaders. The second source of information utilized in the research will be literature on a range of aspects of leadership. The focal point of the literature reassessment will be discovery information on the applicability of leadership techniques as well as the determination of the present state of research on leadership. The data collection tool will have at least four parts. The first section will aspires to capture the biodata of the correspondents. The second section will cope with the demography and gender of the workers in the organization. This will be to ascertain the frequency of the views in different groupings to make sure that if any differences come about, then they will be registered in their demographic space. The third part will deal with academic credentials and work experince.

The inspiration for this part comes from the comprehension that different sections of the populace react in a different way to motivators based on age and educational qualifications. The fourth section will look into the exact issues related to leadership starting from the understanding of possible effects it would have on the followers. The questionaire will also employ a mix of open ended and closed questions to capture dissimilar features of the issues learnt according to the degree of facet required. The literature gathered will offer information concerning a variety of theories and approaches of leadership. This will give a historical standpoint since the topic of leadership started receiving explicit interest in the last two decades. Secondly, the literature will make available a number of theories dealing with the applicability of leadership in the business world. Finally, the literature will provide information on the state of research in the field.

The use of the questionaire will make allow capturing issues exclusive to the two leaders, Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. This is because there is no available literature with the required degree of relevence to the topic. The targeted individuals will respond to the questionaires online. The accessibility of persons influenced the option of the data colection method since the researched are workers who work all through the day and therefore it is not achievable to meet all of them in one place at the same time. An online questionaire will decrease the expenses of data compilation, guarantee privacy, and will be accessible to the staff for a set period. After being gathered, the data will go through examination resulting in the comments and conslusions that will be talked about in chapters three and four of the project paper. The most appropriate sampling method for this exercise will be random sampling. Considering that the targeted population consist of staff of the organization, there will be no much danger of having prejudiced data. If the study needed to cover up the whole company, then systematic sampling together with stratified sampling would be perfect to guarantee cross-departmental representation. However, this study targeted the personnel in the management positions hence random sampling proved adequate to gather the essential data.

Research Ethics

The superiority and sincerity of this research will be sustained through moral practices and the sources of the information employed will remain nameless (Kline 2010). The researcher will make an effort to construe the data without narrow-mindedness or predetermined ideas to make sure good, convincing and believable research findings and conclusions are collected.


Timescale Task Date to be completed
Research area, overview, and general idea of research 01/12/2014
Background of topic and generation of research question and objectives 01/01/2015
Literature Review and methodology completed 01/03/2015
Proposal Submission 16/03/2015
Plan of data collection 01/05/2015
Literature review completed 01/05/2015
Data research and collection 01/06/2015
Analysis of data and conclusions 01/07/2015
Draft dissertation 01/08/2015
Revised dissertation 15/08/2015
Final Submission 17/09/2015


A number of resources will be needed to complete this assignment, including biographies and autobiographies of the two leaders, journal articles, books, and the internet.

List of References

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Aquinas, P. (2006). Organisational behaviour: Concepts realities applications and challenges. New Delhi: Excel Books.

Bass, ‎ B. (2005). Transformational Leadership. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Bell, J. (2005), Doing your research project: a guide for first-time researchers in education, health and social science. Maidenhead: Open university press.

Blanchard, K. H., & Cathy, S. T. (2002). The generosity factor: Discover the joy of giving your time, talent, and treasure. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Clawson, J.G. (2011). Level Three Leadership: Getting Below the Surface. New York: Prentice Hall.

Collins, J. C. (2001). Level 5 leadership: The triumph of humility and fierce resolve. Boston: Harvard Business Review.

Ferch, S. R., & Spears, L. C. (2011). The spirit of servant-leadership. New York: Paulist Press.

Flint, B. B. (2012). The journey to competitive advantage through servant leadership: Building the company every person dreams of working for and every president has a vision of leading. Bloomington: West Bow Press.

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Hughes, R. L., Ginnett, R. C., & Curphy, G. J. (2012). Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Kang, L & Singh, R 2006, Stress at Work: An Assessment of the Magnitude of Various Organisational Stressors, Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 42. no. 2, pp. 190-202.

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Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2003). Encouraging the heart: A leader’s guide to rewarding and recognizing others. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Schuttler, R & Burdick, J 2010, Laws of communication: The intersection where leadership meets employee performance, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken.

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Sipe, J. W., & Frick, D. M. (2009). Seven pillars of servant leadership: Practicing the wisdom ofleading by serving. New York: Paulist Press.

Watson, T 2006, Motivation: That’s Maslow, isn’t it, Management Learning, vol. 27. no. 10, pp. 447-464.

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