Strategic Management Assessment of Apple Inc



Strategic Management, in simple terms, is a discipline that aims to make it easier for the managers of the organisations to take correct decisions in difficult situations. In today’s competitive world, every company has been opting for global expansion, it has hence become more difficult for the managers to take crucial decisions. Therefore, this discipline has been evolved with time to cope-up with the emerging trends in the global scenario considering both the external factor i.e., the competitive structure and internal factors such as capacity and resources of the organisation. It implies that with the help of various strategies, the management can align with the requirements of the company with it’s internal as well as external environment considering the global presence (Presenza & Sheehan, 2017). Thus, particularly referring to the ‘Apple Inc’, this assessment aims to produce a report intended to identify the impacts of leadership styles/skill sets on its objectives and the team of the management. Apple Inc., formerly known as ‘Apple Computer, Inc’ was founded by Stephen Wozniak and Steven Jobs. It is an American organisation, which manufactures and designs computers and other electronic devices. It has a wide range of products and is best known for iPod and personal computers along with the innovative strategies that its management uses for marketing its products (Rouse, 2009). It has become the most powerful and prominent organisation in the world of technology today, which has made numerous revolutionary innovations and have created milestones in not only innovativeness but also in leadership approaches.

Furthermore, value-based and ethical approaches in developing the understanding of leadership in the organisation have been considered. In the initial part of the paper, different types of leadership styles required in varied situations of Apple in order to meet the objectives has been discussed. Thereafter, understanding the prevailing leadership style, cultural establishment of professionalism, respect, trust and support will be critically evaluated. In the later part, its ethical, as well as value-based approach, is conferred examining the impact of culture and values. In addition, the regulatory, ethical and legal requirements are highlighted thereby critically analysing the needs and expectations of the stakeholders of the company with regards to leadership.


Leadership Styles

Effective leadership is essential for the success of the organisation and that the expert leaders give advice depending on the situation, experience, inference as well as instinct. The leaders or managers must not implement only one type of leadership style but possessed an integrative approach depending upon the situations and only then, it will be effective and successful. There have been numerous types of leadership styles propounded by various prominent economists such asaccording to Goleman (2017), there are six basic leadership styles namely, authoritative leadership, and coercive, affiliative, democratic, pace-setting and coaching leadership. Accordingly, Coercive leaders demand the compliance of the employees immediately, while authoritative ones direct the employees towards their vision. Emotional bonding and the environment of harmony were created by the affiliated and Democratic leaders to foster equal participation of all the employees. Furthermore, excellence in the performance was expected by pace-setting leaders and the leaders showcasing coaching style usually helped the employees to develop their future (Goleman, 2017). Apart from these leadership styles, one of the founders of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs has been one of the inspirational leaders, who showcased an unconventional approach to leadership. He was known for high-performance and co-working abilities even though he had the consultative ability and believed in building harmony showcasing affiliative and pacesetting leadership styles. Moreover, he was extremely effective in communicating his vision to the shareholders just as an affiliative leader. He was a perfect blend of important styles leading him towards success as he was passionate about his vision like that of an authoritative leader and hence demanded perfection as similar to a pace-setting leader (McInerney, 2011).

Leadership Styles’ Suitability in Different Situations 


In certain situations, where a major decision needs to be taken such as when there are problems regarding employees, coercive style is appropriate as it allows the organisation to be flexible and motivate the employees. The authoritative style is appropriate when the business is in drifting conditions with the requirement of the leader, who would aim to attain the organisation’s objective, thereby, giving the freedom to his/her team to choose their means. Correspondingly, the affiliative leaders are competent enough to in build strong relationships, have empathy and good communications skills. However, this type of leadership is suitable for settling any kind of internal issues among the employees. Corresponding to the suitability of the democratic style despite having problems in the decision-making, one can opt for this style as the employees can have their say while making decisions. Thus, it can also be regarded as appropriate, when an organisation requires new and innovative ideas (Goleman, 2017). 

The pacesetting style is sometimes unfeasible as the leader himself sets high goals and wants its followers to incurred higher ones. However, this style can be used, when all the employees are highly competent, self-motivated and only requires coordination/direction which indicates being an expert team. The coaching style focuses more on individual development of the employees and therefore it is suitable for the employees to stay aware of their weaknesses and to have an urge of improving the only required proper guidance from the leader. Therefore, it was suggested that if the leaders and managers are adaptive and have mastered these styles. They will also be able to change in accordance with the situation, which shall in turn result in creating a best suitable work environment for the employees, thereby optimizing the entire organisation’s performance (Goleman, 2017).

The Case Scenario of Apple 

Having a brief understanding of the different leadership styles, relations can be drawn with respect to Apple Inc. There were six CEOs leading Apple in the history and each had their own imprint on the achievements of Apple successively named as, Michael “Scotty” Scott, A. C. “Mike” Markkula, John Sculley, Michael Spindler, Gil Amelio and Steve Jobs. According to Rattay (2012), the leaders of the company implemented the ‘Laissez-Faire leadership style’ at the initial stage, which indicated that the leaders gave complete freedom to the employees without any participation of the leaders. This proved to be advantageous at that time when new ideas and products were to be developed, which can be considered as one of the powerful components to drive developmental activities. However, this approach is quite risky for any company, the reason being that in certain situations direct leadership can have a negative impact and that the leaders might lose control over its employees (Rattay, 2012). The managers and leaders may not be able to self-reflect their thoughts or ideas and could not take external suggestions at the time of crucial situations and while making important decisions. Although it had some disadvantage in certain situations, this type of leadership style is beneficial for a professional and creative environment to some extent as it can successfully implement this style of leadership (Rattay, 2012).

At certain situations, the company faced poor responses due to lack of proper leadership and some even created history with their style and trends. Among them, Jonathan Ive was one of the most influential leaders, who made the recovery of Apple in the market possible at the crucial time, especially when the company was not in a profitable state. He was internationally renowned for being the principal designer of iPod, iMac, and iPhone but still remained humble and modest (O’Grady, 2009). However, with the passage of time and with both positive and negative experiences, Steve Jobs incorporated various attributes related to different types of leadership styles to organise and make the best out of the human resources that were available in the company. The contribution of Steve Jobs was commendable as he tried to mould himself and his leadership styles in accordance with the situations with expertise. Thus, on an overall basis, the former CEO of Steve Jobs can be termed as a Transformational Leadership style. It was also reported that he had three characteristics, which matched with the characteristics of the transformational leader namely visionary, creative as well as passionate. In addition, he was an innovator and had interpersonal characteristics, which also indicated this type of leader, who was interactive as well as empowering in nature (Steinwart & Ziegler, 2014).

Critical Analysis of the Prevailing Leadership Style

Current Leadership Relating to Apple

Apple had experienced numerous changes not only in its executive members and CEOs who facilitated operations but also in the leadership approaches and styles to lead the expert members of the company. Experiencing the loss of such a key personnel the company was in search of a new direction as well as leadership. Henceforth, Tim Cook was appointed as the new CEO after Steve Jobs, which turned out to be a logical and strategic decision as he was already the former CEO of the company. At that time he had handled all the operational and sales responsibilities worldwide so this experience turned out to be advantageous for Cook pertaining to his taking up new responsibilities. Before being the CEO of Apple, he had a work experience in many other computer companies and had properly executed his roles and responsibilities therein, which proved that he was flexible and capable as a leader of the company. It can also be noted that apart from the leadership styles paving their way of attaining higher success, its organisational structure also played a significant role. The leadership style that persisted led the company to facilitate immediate change decision regarding its products, which can also be termed as a straight approach, thereby enabling it to make optimum utilisation of every opportunity (Johnson, 2012).

Thus, it can also be noted that Steve Jobs made the company profitable at the time when it was facing the state of bankruptcy and because of his tremendous success, it has become highly challenging for Cook to maintain the competitive edge in the market. Corresponding to the use of business models there has not been any major changes as Cook has been using blue ocean strategy successfully without any major changes. However, unlike Jobs, he has been protecting the existing business model. Thus, he proved that the operations of Apple are equally effective even when sales volume has been expanded with no frequent innovations taking place, thereby successfully meeting the company’s goals and objectives (Johnson, 2012). Therefore, as per the leadership style is concerned, Jobs has been described to be of a thoughtful as well as a charismatic type. It’s not only the contribution of CEOs but also the leadership strategies that matter for successful endeavours. 

Establishment of Appropriate Culture

Critically analysing the prevailing leadership style of Apple Inc., it can be opined that there are specific values and culture for maintaining trust, respect, support and professionalism in an organisation. In the era of Jobs, he created a culture of responsibility through regular meetings held where participation was mandatory and imbibed a sense of accountability among the employees. There is no confusion observed in the company regarding the roles to be played as he had set a trend that the responsibility extended down its organisational hierarchy. Another success factor for the company is the simplicity it has regarding its structure and also established the feeling of mutual trust among each and every member. It is one of the main approaches which foster command-and-control type of structure in the organisation thereby maintaining professionalism (Lashinsky, 2011). As visionary leaders paved the way for the employees towards the vision of the company it was also seen that similar work was put into practice by Jobs. Although he mostly depicted autocratic leadership style, he also incorporated visionary leadership style, which could be inferred from his inabilityto communicate his unique vision to his employees and stakeholders leading towards higher success (Deakin University, 2012). 

This showed that he had successfully imbibed his visions and mindset into the culture of the organisation as it was evident by a statement of an employee. Correspondingly, the greatest strength of the company was the limited focusing ability wherein, every member is liable for only doing his set of tasks. Hence, Specialisation was another prominent norm of the company because no employee is allowed to function or operate beyond their roles, which in turn resulted in developing expertise. For instance, the online store in charge was not authorised to do any in-house activities. Apart from the primary executives of the company each and every individual had limited set of roles, thereby ensuring that there are best employees in every role. The working environment in the organisation is quite rigid and difficult, however, it was reported that it has very low number of turnovers. This depicts that the employees have imbibed its culture and have respect for each other especially for Jobs as his teachings; strategies and approaches have still been inspiring the decisions of the company (Lashinsky, 2011). 

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Organisational Direction 

Furthermore, having a detailed understanding of the leadership styles, the organisational directions of Apple Inc. has been be studied in brief in the preceding sections, pertaining to the direct reports of Cook, which was divided into two functions, namely, sustaining and disruptive. It was also observed that there is no organisational consistency while reporting the financial performances. Thus, it can be opined that new direct reports should be produced based on the specific creation of roles. However, Apple Inc., having a straight organisational structure, the direct responsibility taken by Steve Job was commendable, which has been followed successfully by Tim Cook (Dediu, 2013). With the passage of time, this notion of strict professionalism is loosening because of the efforts of Cook and is slowly bringing about changes in the organisation but in a positive direction. He has also been perfectly balancing the corporate culture as set by Jobs even with certain changes in the leadership style because unlike him, Cook would not be able to handle the situations with strict and harsh tone. This has given the employees more ease and confidence in their daily activities especially affecting its process of product development. However, Cook also got a platform to address a number of issues thereby interacting with the world and involving Apple with higher corporate responsibilities (Lashinsky, 2015). According to Sinding & Bøllingtoft (2012), Tim is a reliable, asystematic and well-experienced leader pertaining to the production and logistics functions which are highly beneficial for the company. He also assured that there would not be major changes taking place especially in terms of values and principles as he was himself a perfectionist similar to that of Jobs. However, with the passage of time, there were some changes brought about in varied aspects expect in case of its principles, culture and values (Sinding & Bøllingtoft, 2012). 

Evaluation of Approaches to Leadership

Apple’s Leadership Approaches

Considering the contribution of Steve Jobs in the company, his style of leadership can be evaluated from the perspective of several models and theories in order to define his leadership style. This is done because it has been evident that the prevailing leadership style, culture and values have been mostly influenced by him. He has also been an inspiration for applying proper strategic management in his era. He was able to anticipate the visions for the company, had a strategic mindset and had created competitive advantage. Moreover, he was liable to take difficult and crucial decisions at the time of need. The vision statement of the company enabled not only the leaders but also employees to generate positive results, thereby maintaining dignity, respect, support as well as meaning in their specific tasks to meet its objectives. Assessing the type of leader he is, according to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), he was ENTJ type, which signifies that he possessed qualities like planning, visionary, communication, and that of a natural leader, who took charge of all the activities of the organisation. He not only set aside a great example as a leader in the context of success but also with his failures and weaknesses. One of the failures, from which a leader should learn is when he excluded the third-party software and drew controversies. This is because he always wanted to be exclusive. Another negative aspect was his disregard, which revealed his authoritative and autocratic nature. However,, this approach proved to be perfectly suitable for the emerging market’s perspective (Kutsar, 2014). 

Impact of Culture and Values

Cook was following one of the strongest leaders of the history and shaped Apple by inspiring various lives with his charismatic personality, strategic approaches and specific traits pertaining to his vision, collaboration and calculated risk-taking ability (Kutsar, 2014). According to Moreland (2011), the importance of culture is evident through Apple because even after Jobs death, the culture and especially the values have not changed. The key values being simple, innovative and elegant were the core reason for its products to gain such an excellent response. It was further observed that almost all its stores followed the same culture showing that it is united through its culture. This has been possible with the help of Jobs approaches, its employees who must fit in the organisational norms and expertise. Therefore, the importance of building a strong culture has proved to be high because of the achievements of the company from the stage of bankruptcy (Moreland, 2011). However, the culture of Apple has changed to some extent in the recent years as Cook has publicly voiced as a leader, unlike Jobs. It can hence be stated that he has been dealing with the situation and guarding the distinct and unique organisational culture more fiercely than Cook which hence posed a tremendous impact on the innumerable decisions (Lashinsky, 2015). 

Ethical Approach

Considering the ethical approach of Apple, its commitment towards maintaining the highest standards for the ethical conduct, environmental as well as social responsibility is visible, especially in the recent years. There has been a recent update in its ‘code of conduct’ especially for the suppliers, as per which they should provide safe and secure working conditions to the employees. They also toneed to treat the workers of the company with respect and dignity along and should also act in an ethical and fair manner. The main concern, however,, was the environmental responsibility and therefore, the suppliers had to ensure that they performed all the activities related to production and services keeping into account the environmental responsibilities. Therefore, this came into existence through the operations, when in compliance with the principles of the company as well as with all the rules, regulations and laws applicable. The company also considers the international standards in order to enhance their contribution to the environment as well as social responsibilities. In a situation, where legal requirements differ from the standards, the stricter one was applied. Thus, maintaining proper ‘code of conduct’ especially in the context of human and labour rights, protection of the environment, safety and health issues, management practices and ethics. If these standards are not followed by the suppliers then this violation may jeopardize the relationship with the company and may even lead to termination (Apple, 2015). 

In relation to the labour and human rights, it believed in upholding the highest standards such as anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, anti-abuse, prevent human trafficking and involuntary labour. Moreover, underage labour/juvenile/student workers were protected and prevented along with their freedom of collective bargaining as well as association. As per the health and safety standards, the occupational hazard was prevented and preparedness at the time of emergency was facilitated along with incident management, communication, living and working conditions standards. Furthermore, considering the environmental standards, restriction regarding hazardous substance, waste, storm-water and wastewater management, air emissions and noise restrictions were implemented as regular reporting. Particularly, the ethical standards include business integrity, information disclosure, intellectual property protection, whistleblower protection, community engagement and responsible mineral sourcing. There were also the principles regarding the commitment of the management such as proper risk assessment, meeting performance objectives, carrying out audits, assessments, documentation, training and communication activities. All these standards are implemented even today with strict compliance, intending to meet the organisational goals and objectives along with ethical, social, legal and corporate responsibilities (Apple, 2015).

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Value-Based Approach

Apple has been implementing the value-based approach in their leadership culture, which was denoted by a statement of Steve Jobs who once said, “The only thing that works is management by values”. It has been highly favourable for the company to implement this approach as it ensures strong relationship and connection in the organisation intending to positively influence its performance. This approach also increases the ability of the leader to motivate and focus on the core value of the organisation, in turn, enhancing his/her effectiveness. Thus, it helps the leaders increase their leadership perspective, bonding, potential and leadership integrity, thereby complying with the values of the organisation (Evolved People Media, 2015). To be successful in this competitive market, the entire focus of the organisation and its members were on the creation and proper delivery of its values on an overall basis (Gbadamosi, 2013). It is further able to meet its requirements for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and is able to live up to the expectation of the stakeholders and satisfy them. In the case of Apple, the role of its stakeholders was highly significant in increasing its performance, thereby influencing sales revenue and the perception of customers. It has hence been satisfying not only its customers but its employees, distributors/suppliers as well as investors. Especially through its supply chain, the company has been satisfying the interest of its workers, which is its way to perform CSR activities. Therefore, the main objective of their CSR activities has been to comply with the supply chain by regulating it with the ‘code of conduct’ (Thompson, 2017). 


Having a detailed analysis of the case scenarios of Apple, the importance of proper strategic management was evident. The tremendous success of Apple was not only because of Steve Jobs and his managerial abilities and style but because of its stakeholders as well. The leadership styles had also changed accordingly from being Laissez-Faire leadership style in the initial stages to a type of autocratic approach by Steve Jobs. Hence, it can be suggested that that organisation will flourish when its leaders will be able to change their leadership styles as appropriately required as per situations. However, the contribution of Steve Jobs at the time, when the company was on the verge of closure was commendable and it can also be stated that the legacy is getting successfully followed by Tim Cook. Although he has brought about certain changes in the leadership style to a democratic one, he has been able to keep the organisational culture and values without major changes. This has made the company to increase its competitive advantage over its competitors with changes in their leader’s behaviour such as leniency and concerns, unlike that of Jobs.

Thus, it has been evident that there is a huge contribution made by Jobs regarding the creation of organisational culture, value and professionalism. Moreover, Cook’s contributions to the organisational sustainability and development have been evident in the creation of respect, support and mutual trust. This was possible because he showed care and concern about the workers through the development of ‘Suppliers code of conduct’. He also had the opportunity to address social issues that have been contributing to the CSR activities, in turn, increasing their market value, thereby making the employees understand their direction and path towards further success. Therefore, it can be stated that the step of Cook towards maintaining and increasing its accomplishments i.e., to enhance value-based approach and have ethical concerns have proved to be highly successful. Hence, on an overall basis, the impact of values and culture was evident along with it ethical and legal requirement and stakeholders’ expectation compliance resulting in the success of a leader and his organisation. 

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