Steve Jobs’s v Tim Cook’s Leadership in Apple Inc.

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The importance of leadership for the organisation’s success and productivity is hard to underestimate. Leadership plays many roles within the organisation, and numerous factors, crucial to success, depend on leaders. First of all, excellent leadership can help individuals, groups of people and the firm as the whole to adapt to various new changes and conditions. Since the present-day business environment is rather turbulent in almost every niche, changes compose significant challenges for companies.

Therefore, it is crucial for them to have proficient leaders who can ensure that people cope with new work requirements. Additionally, due to innovative and highly knowledgeable leaders, organisations have a chance to survive in complicated and highly competitive business environment since that is what helps them to deal with the rival (Maxwell 2007). Effective leadership is also able to mitigate the risks for the organisation by efficiently allocating resources in order to achieve the desired ends.

One of the most essential for success factors is creating the group of dedicated employees, committed to the goals of the organisation (Bernard 2003). For that purpose, leadership should rely on knowledge and skill of the workers, due to which they can feel valued and satisfied with their job. Similarly, according to Keller (2006), effective leadership means being inclusive and allowing the employees to participate in the decision-making process of the organisation.

While leaders set up standards and objectives of the company to be met by all the employees, they also play the role of assessing the performance of their followers, offering them rewards according to the efforts that they make (Kolenda 2001; Sipe & Frick 2009). Employees should also be constantly trained so that they could enhance innovation in the organisation and be on par with the changes in the business (Malik, Danish & Munir 2012). As Rothfelder, Ottenbacher and Harrington (2012) state, leadership practices play an important role towards job satisfaction, which, in its turn, affects the organisation’s success significantly.

Apple Inc. is one of the biggest and the most successful corporation in the world. The company has dominated the technology industry for last several years and still occupies a leading position in terms of both quality and quantity of its services. The corporation was founded and run by Steve Jobs. Jobs was the legendary man, who is still considered to be one of the most famous and proficient visionary and transformational leaders.

That is his leadership strategy that is usually associated with the success of the company. Steve Jobs had a vision and was an innovative person, which is why innovation still remains one of the company’s core values. As a leader, he could influence and motivate people around him. Jobs managed to gather a unique team of highly-skilled and talented people, who believed in the common cause and were committed to the goals of the organisation, which pushed the company far above the other firms. He was an inspiration and the role model for his employees (Jobs &Thomas 2011). His successor Tim Cook has also demonstrated excellent leadership and managerial skills, contributing to the success of the company. Learning from particular Steve’s mistakes, Tim is able to manage the organisation even better, making it more people-oriented.

All of that makes Apple Inc., as well as two of its prominent executives, an interesting and valuable example. Both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook can be called great visionary and transformational leaders. The Apple Company, in its turn, has become one of the most famous and successful corporation in the world. Considering this, a series of questions arises. Was it the leadership style used by Steve Jobs and Tim Cook that increased the productivity of Apple’s employees and made the company so successful? Was this leadership style sufficient for the Apple Company? If it was, which policies, actions or decisions exactly had the greatest influence?

Those are the questions that the future study should address. Answers to them will give a priceless opportunity to executives and policy makers at many levels. They will provide people with a wide exposure to leadership and change management. The Apple’s case study and the knowledge of what effect the leadership style of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook had on it will play a critical in ensuring that managers understand leadership styles that can increase the productivity of their employees and hence put in place strategic plans to gain a competitive edge.

Admittedly, several studies have already been conducted with regard to styles of leadership and the effects they have on the success of an organisation. For instance, studies have shown levels of inconsistency in relation to transformational and transactional leadership. Some studies have indicated an important relationship found between the style of transformational leadership and not the transactional style (Allen & Wilburn 2002). However, the findings are not absolute as the data obtained pointed that despite the leadership style some organisations still have a marked level of success. Therefore, the study that is proposed in this project will contribute significantly to the body of knowledge of related studies concerning the usefulness of effective leadership styles.

Research Questions and Objectives

The research is aimed to explore the leadership styles with the main focus on the profile of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook in Apple Inc. The research question is whether the leadership style championed by Jobs and Cook can increase the productivity of employees and provide the competitive advantage. Thus, the specific objectives of the study are:

  1. To critically analyse the relationship between the type of leadership and the motivation of employees in an organisation.
  2. To critically evaluate how visionary leadership relates to transformational leadership and the overall impact on the creation of competitive advantage for the organisation.
  3. To critically evaluate the connection between visionary leadership and the productivity of a company by exploring a case study of Apple Inc. under the leadership of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook.

Literature Review

Leadership is a broad concept that is respected, applied and studied across the globe. Numerous past investigations have explored leadership styles and theories, applications inside the organisations and impacts of those. Even though researchers have many different opinions regarding every aspect of leadership, all of them admit that it is too difficult and complex phenomenon to be specified or described definitely (Gratton & Jones 2004). Still, all definitions usually talk about the development of a vision and strategies that are necessary to achieve the set goals, as well as an ability to motivate followers (Northouse 2001).

The history and origins of leadership go back to the ‘Great Man’ theory that states that leadership is based on hereditary factors, that is, leaders are born, and their qualities are not transferable to others (Northouse 2001). With the passage of time, people began to realize all the shortcomings the theory had (even though it is still used as the basis for understanding leadership styles, it does not explain how the things work in reality) (Chardan & Devi 2014). Instead, researchers began to discuss leadership in the perspective of behavior. That is when the situational theory of leadership came into notice; it stated that leaders always should take the given situation into consideration and choose a particular leadership style that would fit in (Chardan & Devi 2014).

Chardan and Devi (2014) described a leadership style as a set of patterns that are used in organisations. Kolenda (2001) specified those as interaction patterns between leaders and their followers. Among the styles of leadership, transformational and transactional are the most widely used, which is why they constitute the basis of many studies. Admittedly, these two types of leadership styles have things in common with others. For instance, visionary leadership can be described in relation to transformational one.

Leadership and Organizational Performance

Many scholars have pointed out that leadership is a very important concept in any organisation. There is no doubt that it has a significant influence on the organizational behaviour and culture. However, researchers are not so sure when it comes to organizational performance.

Rafferty and Griffin (2004) pointed that there is a direct relationship between leadership and performance. Many other studies stated that excellent leadership has a positive influence on organizational performance as well. Abbas & Asghar (2010), for instance, claimed that proficient leaders help companies to handle new challenges, and that enables the firm to develop and operate more successfully.

The performance of an organisation can be understood in terms of attaining maximum profits, producing high-quality products and services, efficient marketing strategies, and excellent financial returns. As Polelle (2008) states, all of these are determined by the quality of leadership that is in place in the organisation. However, performance also depends on the level of productivity of the workers, which, in its turn, is closely connected with the satisfaction of employees. Thus, to succeed and attain a competitive edge, a company should enhance its employees’ satisfaction (Johnson 2007).

Transformational Leadership and Organisational Performance

The central characteristic of a transformational leader is that he persuades, inspires and motivates people, using his own personal attributes, such as beliefs or values. In this case, followers do not work for the leader – they work together and complement each other (Kline 2010). That, in its turn, makes subordinates trust their leader and contributes to loyalty. Due to motivation and inspiration, employees prioritize by concentrating on the goals of the organisation rather than their personal goals, which enhances productivity and the development of the firm (Kouzes & Posner 2003).

Kouzes and Posner (2012) define several characteristics that set transformational leaders apart from others; according to them, transformational leaders are charismatic, motivators, intelligent and concerned. Being charismatic helps a leader to have a clear vision and the strategy for the organisation, enables him to inspire followers and make them confident of their leader, as well as organisation’s goals they work to achieve.

Thus, being a motivator normally comes together with being charismatic. Leaders can also set challenging but reachable goals for their team, enhancing self-development of followers. It increases loyalty and enables employees to understand the organisational goals better (Matha & Boehm 2008). Due to his third quality, a transformational leader comes up with new ideas. Finally, transformational leaders are concerned with the welfare of their followers. They understand that employees should be empowered through appropriate training and mentoring programmes. They also treat them with respect and dignity, guide them and enable to reach a certain level of maturity, increasing their productivity in the organisation.

According to Harold and Fedor (2008), transformational leadership takes into consideration the possibility of leaders offering incentives to employees as a way to encourage them, which should contribute to employees’ satisfaction. However, the findings by Harold and Fedor (2008) do not provide a basis under which transformational leadership transcends to result in organisational performance.

Transitional Leadership and Organizational Performance

Transactional leadership entails a scenario whereby the leader offers rewards to the followers in relation to the value added to the firm. The leader directs and oversees the finish of undertakings in the organisation by the devotees to guarantee that the objectives of the organisation are met (Miller 2012). The setting and definition of the organisational goals clearly combined with the availability of proper incentives to recognise performance motivates the followers to perform beyond the expectations (Northouse 2010). In addition, followers have a clear understanding of what follows if a job is poorly done, which also makes them do their best (Northouse 2010).

In discussing transactional leadership based on a reward system, Johnson (2007) pointed to the importance of this leadership style. However, Johnson (2007) did not relate to how the reward system either positive or negative influence the level of job satisfaction and the organisational performance.

Steve Jobs as a Visionary Leader

In the current business environment, visionary leadership is necessary for organizations to adapt to changes, be able to compete, attract and retain talents, etc. An effective leader should be in a position to respond to work environment challenges and communicate goals of an organisation. Thus, leaders have to be able to understand emotions and apply this understanding to enhance collaboration and productivity (Kafetsios et al. 2009). All of these are things that Steve Jobs was capable of.

Steve had a winner’s mentality, passion and dedication, which helped him to both build the huge corporation and attract employees. He was an inspiration and the role model for his followers (Jobs & Thomas 2011). The whole organizational culture was built around his own values and philosophy. He inspired people to work hard, which pushed the company far above the other firms. Due to being a proponent of face to face conversation, Steve could get the feedback and understand people’s needs and emotions (Polelle 2008). After succeeding Steve, Tim Cook followed his example in many ways and showed himself as a great leader too.

Gaps in the Research

Based on the literature, it is arguable that leadership style has a crucial role in the performance of the organisation. For instance, as mentioned earlier, employees’ satisfaction is a critical factor in the organization’s performance. Thus, to succeed and attain a competitive advantage, companies should enhance it. However, researchers have very different opinions regarding the effect that the leadership has or has not on employees satisfaction.

For instance, Kippenberger (2002) has established the connection between these two variables, while Sakiru et al. (2013) are of a contrary opinion. Similarly, there are proponents who believe that the organisational performance is positively influenced by effective leadership, and there are those who state that there is no connection between them at all. The arguments are drawn from different studies that have explored the different concepts of leadership, which has led to the divergent opinions, hence, creating a knowledge gap. Therefore, the further research is needed. For the further study, a reputable leader (Steve Jobs) and a reputable company (Apple Company) have been chosen.


In order to answer the research question and achieve the objectives of the study defined earlier, the research has to investigate the phenomena of leadership styles and their influence on organisational performance and change (with the primary focus on leadership of Steve Job and Tim Cook and its impact on the Apple Company). The best way to do this is to apply the quantitative approach. The quantitative research is suitable since it can provide a comprehensive understanding of the leadership styles and their influence on performance. The study will rely only on secondary data, which is to be collected from credible and reliable resources. After the information is gathered, it will be critically analysed with statistical tools in ordered to ensure that the conclusions drawn depict a common perspective of leadership.

Research Design

For this study, I would recommend using the cross-sectional research design, in which empirical data on the high-profit returns would be gathered and analysed. The design is suitable for the research as the cross-sectional studies are carried out repeatedly to give pseudo-longitudinal study (Vogt, Gardner and Haeffele, 2012). Thus, it enables the researchers to collect substantive empirical data for the analytical process. The cross-sectional study will give the snapshots of the performance of the Apple Company in the selected study period, which is 2000-2013. Secondary data for the company’s performance in the same period will be used to analyse the implication of Tim Cook and Steve Jobs’ leadership styles.

The future research will have the Apple Company under Steve Jobs and Tim Cook’s leadership styles as the sample. The sample is selected using the purpose sampling. Even though Sans (2011) states that this method can be biassed since it gives the researcher the discretion to identify the subjects to be included in the study, in this particular case, it is suitable and even paramount as only the Apple Company has information that relates to the phenomenon being studied. The sample size is limited to the cross-sectional data covering the study period, including the secondary data linked to the performance indicators of Apple Company under the leadership of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. Only the period of 2000-2013 and only the leadership style of these two executives should be covered in the study.

Data Collection

The future study relies on the secondary data only, and the mode of data collection to be applied in the study is the mining of data from the various databases (data streams). The databases that contain margins and cash flow projections for Apple Company should be chosen. To ensure that data is reliable and consistent and reflects the outcomes of the leadership styles employed in the organisation, only credible databases are to be used.

In addition, the selection of the data has to be limited to the specific time, particularly the period of the leadership of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook. That will guarantee that the data collection method used in the research accurately measures what it is supposed to measure, and findings of the study reflect what they were intended to reflect. Thus, the use of credible data streams and the focus on given time ensure that the reliability and validity of the data are upheld.

Gratton and Jones (2004) argued that the effectiveness of secondary data may be hindered by a low level of reliability and validity. Data for the study will be gathered from external sources. Thus, a review of diverse annual reports relating to Apple Incorporation, such as reports on corporate social responsibility and human resource management, should be conducted. The secondary data will be collected from credible agencies such as KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Deloitte & Touché.

The choice of the agencies is informed by the view that they provide a comprehensive analysis of diverse aspects relating to organisations’ operations. Secondary data will also be gathered from credible databases such as the Social Sciences Research Network [SSRN] and the EBSCO databases. Gratton and Jones (2004) asserted that secondary research can lead to the attainment of the actual data; hence, improving the accuracy with which the research questions are answered.

After the data is collected, it should be critically analysed using such tools as Microsoft Excel and SPSS. Those will enable the researcher to undertake adequate data analysis by incorporating diverse statistical analysis concepts such as percentages, standard deviation, variation, and correlation.

Research Ethics

This section is added to ensure that the research will not disclose any commercially sensitive information that can be received in the process of data collection. Additionally, as far as the study relies on the secondary data only, it does not involve any human participants, who are to be provided with confidentiality or anonymity. Thus, no ethical research principles will be violated.


Task To be completed by
To formulate the research idea and begin the coverage of the literature 15 Dec 2015
To clearly formulate the research questions and objectives 05 Jan 2016
To complete the literature review 09 Jan 2016
To complete the research proposal and submit it to the tutor 13 Jan 2016
To arrange the future data collection process 28 Jan 2016
To continue the coverage of literature and add the information found 15 Feb 2016
To complete the research and analyse the data collected 10 Apr 2016
To draft the dissertation and submit it to the tutor 05 May 2016
To revise the dissertation if necessary 20 May 2016
To submit the final copy of the dissertation 30 May 2016


As far as the research will use only the secondary data, the only resource that is needed to complete the study is the information found in various databases. Only the databases that are credible and reliable and contain margins and cash flow projections for Apple Company will be used. The secondary data will be collected from credible agencies such as KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Deloitte & Touché, as well as from such databases as the Social Sciences Research Network [SSRN] and the EBSCO databases. Thus, the information necessary to complete the research is available.

Reference List

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Bernard, M 2003, ‘The future of leader in learning organisations’, Journal of Leadership and Organisational Studies, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 19-31. Web.

Chardan, C & Devi, R 2014, ‘Leadership Styles’, Research Journal of Management, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 2-10. Web.

Gratton, C & Jones, I 2004, Research methods for sport studies, Psychology Press, Chicago. Web.

Harold, D & Fedor, D 2008, ‘The transformational and change leadership effect on employee’s commitment to a change’, Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 93, no. 2, pp. 346-357. Web.

Jobs, S & Thomas, A 2011, The business wisdom of Steve Jobs, Skyhorse Publishers, New York. Web.

Johnson, T 2007, ‘The Principal Leadership Styles Impact on Teacher Motivation and Job Satisfaction, Human Resource Development Quarterly, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 2-19. Web.

Kafetsios, K, Kassotaki, A, Zammuner, L & Vouzas F 2009, ‘Emotional intelligence abilities and traits in different career paths’, Journal of Career Assessment, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-17. Web.

Keller, R 2006, ‘Transformational leadership, initiating structure & substitutes for leadership: A longitudinal study of research & development project team performance’, Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 91, no.1, pp. 202-210. Web.

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Kline, J 2010, Ethics for International Business: Decision-Making in a Global Political Economy, Routledge, New York. Web.

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Kouzes, J & Posner, B 2012, The Leadership Challenge, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken. Web.

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Matha, B & Boehm, M 2008, Beyond the babble: Leadership communication that drives results, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco. Web.

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Miller, K 2012, Organisational communication: Approaches and processes, Wadsworth Cengage Learning, Boston. Web.

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Northouse, P 2010, Leadership: Theory and practice, Sage Publications, Oakland. Web.

Polelle, M 2008, Leadership: Fifty great leaders and the worlds they made, Greenwood Press, Westport. Web.

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Rothfelder, K, Ottenbacher, M & Harrington, R 2012, ‘The transformational, transactional and non-leadership styles impact on employee job satisfaction, German hospitality industry’, Tourism and Hospitality Research, vol.12, no. 4, pp. 201-214. Web.

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