Strategic Leadership & Innovation at Apple

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Executive Summary


Part One – Critically Evaluate the Key Features of Apple’s Industry


Part Two – Discuss how Leadership in Apple Influenced Strategic Innovation


Part Three – Critically assess Steve Jobs as a strategic leader at Apple










Executive Summary

“Increasingly, though, we live in an irregular world, where irregular people take advantage of irregular events and use irregular means to produce irregular products that yield irregular profits.” – The Future of Management: Gary Hamel; Bill Breen, 2007.

During his time as CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs displayed the attributes outlined in many leadership theories. In some ways he was charismatic, powerful, supportive, flexible and indeed, transformational. However, in others, he was directive, dictatorial and also used reward and punishment techniques to inspire his followers and to propel the organisation to become one of the leading companies in the world today. [Forbes, 2011]

The case study – Strategic Leadership and Innovation at Apple Inc – by Professor Loizos Heracleous and Angeliki Papachroni, which we have been asked to focus on for the purposes of this assignment, demonstrates quite clearly the fluctuating fortunes of the company when Jobs was in a leading role within the organisation and when he parted ways with the company for a period of 12 years (1985-1997). The difference in the direction of the business, not to mention its value and profitability, is quite remarkable. We have discussed this further in section 3 (See page 12).

We have also looked closely at other players in the industry and identified key features that each stakeholder must contend with if they are to continue to succeed. One of the more interesting points in this regard is how adaptable each of the organisations discussed within the case study has become and how individual leaders have embraced change management to deal with both internal and external forces that affect their individual businesses.



However, our main focus has been to attempt to identify how leadership in Apple caused a lacklustre period for the company between 1989-1997 [Heracleous and Papachroni, p. 2] and how the leadership traits displayed by Steve Jobs helped the company to become one of the most admired in the world today.



Part One – Critically Evaluate the Key Features of Apple’s Industry

Apple shares its market place with hundreds of competitors. The authors of Strategic Leadership and Innovation at Apple Inc, Professor Loizos Heracleous and Angeliki Papachroni, focus on what they identify as Apple’s main competitors. All of these companies were created and established by young innovators, and in most cases, these founders are still investing time and energy to lead their respective companies, despite substantial personal fortunes and various other interests. (See Figure 1).  

Fig 1: Analysis of Leaders – Apple and its competitors.

Most of leaders of the companies discussed display the personality descriptors outlined in what is referred to as the “Big-five model of personality structure” [Hogan et al, 1994]. This model describes personality traits of leaders in five broad dimensions – they are: surgency, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and, perhaps most importantly in such a competitive environment, intellect. Also,   5


their status within their respective organisations, and indeed within the wider industry itself, means that they are in a position to display real power [Mintzberg, 1983; Pfeffer, 1992] and authority [Barnard, 1952] to influence their followers.

However, over time, the industry itself has changed remarkably and many of Apple’s competitors, as outlined by Heracleous and Papachroni, have restructured their businesses in line with an ever-changing competitive landscape and...
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