How Transformational Leadership Transforms.

A leader who rises to the occasion and displays transformational leadership, without a doubt, leaves a lasting legacy not only for his followers, but the world.

Extensive research has been conducted on how leadership influences others to effect a change. Transformational leadership in the workplace, in particular, has been a well-expounded topic. This then beckons the question for me – How has transformational leadership led to an organisation transformation in the real world?

Fuelled by that question, I focus on Steve Jobs and the remarkable ways in which his organisation was transformed by his transformational leadership.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) – ex CEO & co-founder of Apple

A thought provoking thought on TEDx by Simon Sinek reveals how great leaders inspire actions and draws direct reference to Apple’s great and inspiring leadership.

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(Click on image to watch video)

Sinek describes how the leadership of Jobs caused Apple to reinvent the traditional order of communication to the consumers and reinvents the way marketing was conducted. When such exceptional leaders helm the organisations, every business and functional unit in an organisation will “think, act and communicate from the inside out”. It is when you “reverse the order of the information” that reveals how “people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it”.

What kind of transformational leadership did Jobs exhibit in creating and reviving Apple? The following are instances where he proved himself to be a transformational leader through idealized influence and inspirational motivation.

Idealized Influence

Jobs was a man driven by high standard of moral and ethical conduct, especially in his stance of piracy in the music industry. He championed the protection of intellectual property, disregarding the fact that free downloadable music could boost the sales of the iPod. His conviction for protecting copyrights saw him pioneering the iTunes Store that allowed record companies to sell their digital versions of the songs, that eventually took the world by storm. Apart from this, he displayed high levels of determination, evident in his love for the company he built from scratch. The resilience he displayed was illustrated in how he envisioned collaboration with record companies to sell their digital version of songs on the iTunes store. With his heart set on accomplishing that vision, he “set about cajoling various top musicians” and “met with almost two dozen major artists”, calling them relentlessly to convince the artists to go along with the iTunes plan. His determination was witnessed by all when he continued to spend significant amounts of time on store projects, especially one in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, despite his battle with cancer during that period.

Inspirational Motivation

Being a futuristic man, Jobs had the innate ability to articulate a compelling vision for the future. He constantly challenged his Macintosh team to put “a dent in the universe” which saw him articulating his desire for a “brand image campaign” instead of “a set of advertisements featuring products” that was “designed to celebrate not what the computers could do, but what creative people could do with computers”. Such vision of communication of redefining how marketing was done draws links back to Sinek’s TEDx Talk on how Apple communicated to their consumers through marketing campaigns that “reversed the order of information”.

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This ultimately led to the “Think Different” campaign, where the message resonated not just with the consumers but the Apply employees themselves and can be seen in the words of the campaign itself:

Here’s to the crazy ones — the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Beyond and above being able to articulate a compelling vision, Jobs showed the capacity of showing exactly how his vision could be achieved. Upon taking reins at Apple, he discovered two months worth of inventory in the warehouses and adopted a management mantra of “Focus”. This was executed through the elimination of excess product lines and removal of unnecessary features in the operating system that Apple managed to “halve the inventory” within a short span of time.

Taking a step back and looking at how far Apple has come, these qualities that Jobs has shown in his life and his leadership at the world renowned company is truly testament to how transformational leadership can transform your organisation and in the case of Job, transform the world.


Biography of Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson) –

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