Focus on Power: the Case of Steve Jobs

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  • Topic: Steve Jobs, Apple Inc., IPhone
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  • Published : March 30, 2011
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Focus on Power: The Case of Steve Jobs
In 2007, Fortune named Steve Jobs the “Most Powerful Person in Business.” In 2009, the magazine named him “CEO of the Decade.” Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), has transformed no fewer than five different industries: computers, Hollywood movies, music, retailing, and wireless phones. His Apple II ushered in the personal computer era in 1977, and the graphical interface of the Macintosh in 1984 set the standard that all other PCs emulated. His company Pixar defined the computer-animated feature film. The iPod, iTunes, and iPhone revolutionized how we listen to music, how we pay for and receive all types of digital content, and what we expect of a mobile phone. How has Jobs done it? Jobs draws on all six types of power: legitimate, expert, reward, information, coercive, and referent. His vision and sheer force of will helped him succeed as a young unknown. But the same determination that helps him succeed has a darker side—an autocracy and drive for perfection that can make him tyrannical. Let’s take each of these in turn. 1. Legitimate power. As CEO of Apple, Jobs enjoys unquestioned legitimate power. 2. Expert power. His success has built a tremendous amount of expert power. Jobs is renowned for being able to think of markets and products for needs that people didn’t even know they had. 3. Reward power. As one of the richest individuals in the United States, Jobs has reward power both within and outside Apple. He also can reward individuals with his time and attention. 4. Information power. Jobs has been able to leverage information in each industry he has transformed. 5. Coercive power. Forcefulness is helpful when tackling large, intractable problems, says Stanford social psychologist Roderick Kramer, who calls Jobs one of the “great intimidators.” Robert Sutton notes that “the degree to which people in Silicon Valley are afraid of Jobs is unbelievable.” Jobs is known to berate people to the point of...
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