iLeadership – Was Steve Jobs a Leadership Dinosaur?

I can’t believe that I am writing “Steve Jobs” and the word “dinosaur” in the same sentence. Yet in my morning run today, I stopped dead in my tracks after connecting a few dots from recent posts/articles that I have been reading on Leadership. Could it be true? Was Steve Jobs a Leadership Dinosaur?

Full disclosure: I am a big Apple fan. I feel really awkward about putting these images side by side, because I don’t like the look of it either -isn’t Steve Jobs the antithesis of a Dinosaur? As it turns out, maybe not quite when it comes to his leadership style. So let me explain myself and follow me as I weave the concepts together:

What is Leadership?

I recently had to do a short presentation for a senior leadership team around ‘What is leadership?’ I have access to countless definitions through just as many sources to answer this basic question.

However, Google didn’t disappoint (no offense, Steve): I came across a great article on Leadership Direct that carved out two very distinct leadership definitions:

Conventional Leadership:

Most conventional Leadership definitions speak to leaders (and managers) occupying a position of authority – a formal role. These definitions also often glorify leadership and reinforce the assumption that leaders are ‘born’.

Think power, authority, and dominant position in a hierarchy.

Reinvented Leadership:

“Given our knowledge driven world, business is a war of ideas where the power to innovate and promote new products is the new basis for leadership. Reinvented leadership = promoting new direction by example or advocating for a better way. “

Think creativity, innovation, bottom-up, top-down and sideways accountability to drive. Although people in positions of authority occasionally show leadership, so does everyone else.

It is not only about traditional collaborative decision-making, or situational leadership – it is around boundaryless leadership. In essence, it is about a mindset.

A belief.

A belief that requires transparency, humility and active input seeking from hierarchical leaders, and a new set of beliefs for ‘followers’ alike: waiting for the ‘top’ to generate the organization’s success blueprint is ‘old’.

Co-creating, at all levels, is ‘Reinvented Leadership’.

Wow. Bring it on!

Now back to Steve. In the Globe Investor’s column on Oct 21, Avner Mandelman published an article called “”. In this article, Mandelman suggests that with Steve Jobs gone, the ‘spark’ is gone and Apple’s stock, although there may still be some gain left, and despite trading at a reasonable PE (Price to Earnings) ratio, has far more downside than upside.

Mandelman, as with everyone else, speaks to Steve Jobs’ leadership as the key driver of the organization – and that employees gave as much as they did ‘for Steve’ but won’t keep it up with him gone. In other words, he was ‘THE’ guy at the top that made all the difference.

Glorified Leadership.

Back to my reinvented leadership definition: “ The idea that leadership means occupying the dominant position in a hierarchy is a DINOSAUR because anyone with critical knowledge that could alter business direction can show leadership”.

There you have it.

We don’t know what went on behind the scenes at Apple – I may gain more insights by reading all the books on Jobs – but we know that he absolutely was a glorified leader, and probably for all sorts of valid reasons. I still think that Apple will rock years from now but I am curious to see if/how they will navigate from a glorified, ‘conventional’ leadership model to ‘reinvented leadership’.

What do you think?

Where are you on the ‘conventional – reinvented’ continuum?

Given the continual amount of changes that bombard your organization, isn’t it also timely to rethink your definition of what leadership is?

Isabelle Clements