Steve Jobs: A Modern Day Machiavelli?

Steve Jobs, some touted him as a innovation genius while others called him crazy. Jobs was able to do in fifty six years what most men could have only dreamed of doing in a lifetime. He not only revolutionized the personal computer, music, and cellular phone industry, but changed the way people interacted with technology and the world in which they live in. Bridging the gap between the realm of technology and mainstream American, Jobs was able to appeal to the general public with his compelling ideas and renowned knack for knowing what the people want. However, the large scale operations that Apple used to create these products and eventually to change the world were no easy task to run. How could Steve Jobs effectively run such a large company and ensure his ideas would be implemented correctly and in a timely manner? How was he able to get so many employees to see his vision and buy into his ideas?  One possible management style that Jobs may have used is derived from the ideas of Niccolò Machiavelli as detailed in the book The Prince.

As noted by bRamon Henson, Instructor, Management & Global Business on the Rutgers Business Blog, Steve Jobs was by no means a “nice guy” when it came to leading Apple. “It is well-known that Steve Jobs could be arrogant, dictatorial, and mean-spirited.  Yet he was a great leader.” This leadership style jobs used holds many stark similarities to the leadership style detailed in The Price. Among all the tips Machiavelli gives while explaining how to maintain a principally, the idea that a leader cannot always be “nice” found in chapter 15 of The Price was extremely prevalent in Job’s management style. Dylan Love of Business Insider discusses how Steve Jobs was a huge jerk and would scream at his employees to either prove his point or motivate them to work. He did this on various occasions, telling employees to their face that “you guys have no idea what you are doing” and “Everything you’ve done in your life is shit” by doing this Jobs was always voicing his opinion and making sure the people within the company knew who was the boss. Both Jobs and Machievelli believed that in order to be successful and accomplish their goals they could not act very kindly.

Having clear goals is of the upmost importance when both running a company and ruling a state. This necessity can be found throughout The Prince as all of Machiavelli’s ideas would never work if the clear goal of effectively forming and running a principality was not instituted. Working without a vision is pretty much pointless as you are figuratively “driving blind”. Apple as a corporation followed the visions that Steve Jobs established. Ramon Henson details how Jobs did not only have a clear vision, but he worked tirelessly to ensure that ever person who worked at Apple shared that vision and understood what they needed to do for company to succeed. Machiavelli understood this idea as well and shows on multiple occasions how important it is to have a plan and execute it correctly.

Whether Steve Jobs actually read The Prince and adopted the ideas that Machiavelli detailed or not, Jobs’s style of leadership is extremely similar to Machiavelli’s believe in how to run a principality. These principles live on today within Apple even after the passing of Mr. Jobs and will continue to influence Apple well into the future.

 

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3 thoughts on “Steve Jobs: A Modern Day Machiavelli?

  1. This idea of Steve Jobs emulating many of the points Machiavelli made in his book The Prince really does resonate with me. Steve Jobs, as you mentioned, was a game changer who changed the way we as people looked at electronics. But his leadership style was, at points, very cruel. I have read articles saying that some of the employees of Steve Jobs would complain about how much Jobs would push them to do more and never take breaks. He was really emulating this idea of “ends justifies the means.” Whether or not this was good of him is of course up to debate, but I think that Steve Jobs definitely did emulate Machiavelli in some aspects and as a result changed the world.

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  2. Steve Jobs is definitely not the only boss or head of a major company to use harsh rule to inspire the best results from his or her employees. Just because he exercised cruelty when it came to how he ran his company I don’t believe that has a direct correlation to Machiavelli. But where I do draw the connection between these two people is the idea of constantly overthrowing the status quo. That is what Jobs did that made Apple what is was. Apple has always been years ahead of the game and changing the way society relies on technology everyday.

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  3. This article is very good at explaining the similarities between Steve Jobs’ form of “governing” and Machiavelli’s theory of being cruel within reason, among other characteristics of a leader. I think that one aspect that could be explored further is the question of loyalty and trust in the leader. jordancamina reveals that Jobs would scream at his employees occasionally and even make personal attacks, so why did these employees continued to work with him? Machiavelli explores this notion of winning the trust of your “followers” and making them be loyal to you. I think Jobs was very strategic about this as he effectively created a system of workers that believed in the mission of Apple. Instead, his “followers'” loyalty was invested in his cause, the company, and not him as a person or a boss. This is the genius of Steve Jobs.

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