Secondary Secondary Business Secondary Economics

Secondary Economics and Business – Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011:
A lesson in entrepreneurship, leadership and culture
Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me.. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.
– Steve Jobs, Wall Street Journal (1993)

The concepts of entrepreneurship, leadership and culture are prevalent in most specifications across a variety of exam boards such as AQA and Edexcel and we all know that the use of real examples exemplifies the theory behind these concepts. Most, if not all students are aware of Apple, but possibly not of Steve Jobs to any great degree of depth.

As I write this Apple Inc. are to celebrate the life of their co-founder Steve Jobs at their Cupertino headquarters, California. Upon news of his death Twitter exploded with sentiment and Time magazine stopped their presses, tearing up its scheduled edition to celebrate the life of possibly one of the most influential showmen in any industry.

Using Jobs as a focus for the personal qualities that lead entrepreneurs to succeed really touches on why people set up a business in the first place.  Across the Economics and Business syllabi we see these qualities described over and over again. Jobs had the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur such as resilience, perseverance, and self-actualisation.

Though charismatic on stage, it is well known that Steve Jobs was an incredible example of an autocratic leader. He had a top-down one-way system of communication within the organisation. He was also an incredible micro-manager. I recently read an article where Jobs called Google’s Vic Gundotra on a Sunday to complain that the second ‘O’ on the Google App for iPhone didn’t have the right yellow gradient. A visionary in his markets, but driven by a dictatorial attitude within his organisation and an eye for extreme detail.
Investor Warren Buffet once said that, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it”. Apple and its corporate culture are now at a milestone. Steve Jobs was a ‘culture carrier’ at the core of the brand. Will the company be able to continue to foster the same culture of innovation and product orientation that made the company a market leader? Will the fervour that its employees had for its corporate mission die with that of one of its founders, simply becoming one more technology company?

There is an absolute wealth of materials suited to both Key Stages on Jobs that can be used throughout a lesson to highlight and add value to key theory. I have attached a PDF here with some of the most useful resources. I think that using Jobs as the sole backbone for a refresher lesson on enterprise, strategy, management, leadership, culture and empowerment makes for an interesting end of term lesson.

A possible essay question:
With reference to the videos, articles seen and your own knowledge, to what extent do you agree that Steve Jobs leadership guaranteed the company’s success prior his death.’ (20)

Key essay hooks:

  1. Is there a difference between management and leadership?
  2. Key features of authoritarian/autocratic leadership. Compare and contrast with Paternalistic and Democratic forms. (See F.W Taylor Principles of Scientific Management.)
  3. What is success? How is a business deemed to be successful?
  4. What other internal/external influences might be just as important?

Daniel Baker
Teacher of Business and Economics
Trinity Catholic High School

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