Leadership Strategies: Apple Inc.

Subject: Leadership Styles
Pages: 10
Words: 2815
Reading time:
10 min
Study level: PhD

Apple Leadership

Apple’s leadership is headed by Tim Cook, who acts as CEO of the company, while Eddy Cue and Angela Ahrendt are senior vice presidents in Internet and software service and retail, respectively. The detailed board of vice presidents can be observed on the slide.

Direct and Indirect Leadership

Apple can be regarded as the legend of modern business that changed the world of computer technology. Maximum engineering, minimum bureaucracy, and respect for employees compose the basis of Apple’s corporate culture, an American manufacturer of personal and tablet computers, audio players, telephones, and software. It is one of the pioneers in the field of personal computers and modern multitasking operating systems with a graphical interface. Both internal and external leadership is essential for Apple. The very vision of the company involves spirit, ideology, and lifestyle. No computer company could create such a cohesive and whole subculture of users and employees. This is a way of thinking and a system of values creating the so-called Macintosh Way.

Manager Interaction

The organizational structure of Apple presents a network that graphically illustrates the company’s internal organization. After Steve Jobs’s departure, Tim Cook moved to the place of the CEO, but the model remained. In fact, it does not differ from hierarchies in other companies – there is a leader, there are vice presidents, middle, and first-level employees. Everyone submits to the person standing higher. Apple’s success comes primarily from the vision of the company’s top management and corporate culture, which reinforces the need to be ready for “the next big thing”. The latter implies the transition to a new product, innovative solutions, and continuous enhancement. This corporation organizes the workflow in such a way that they achieve 40 percent higher productivity and, as a result, receive 30-50 percent more profit than the industry average. In particular, by ten am on Thursday, they have done more than other companies in a week, but they do not stop working. This difference accumulates every year, while for a decade they can do 30 times more than the competitors with the same number of workers.

Leaders within Apple

Tim Cook’s leadership behavior may be determined as democratic since he adopted the existed traditions and implemented his own strengths, focusing on employee relationships and advanced cooperation. According to Cook’s task-oriented behavior, only several issues may be accomplished successfully, while abstract definitions are not useful.

The leadership behavior of Katherine Adams’s who serves as the company’s General Counsel and Senior Vice president refers to a participative style. She runs several business fields and applies various decision-making procedures to contribute to the development of Apple.

Another member of the Executive Team, Philip Schiller, is known for his task-oriented behavior, including monitoring, planning, and clarifying. More to the point, the consideration of global changes in marketing brings an element of transformational leadership as it promotes continuous change in order to meet customers’ needs and anticipate their expectations.

Increasing Learning and Motivation

Collective learning and innovation are some of the most critical learning and motivation strategies that can be suggested for Apple employees. By sharing experience as well as focusing on internal and external knowledge creation, it is possible to stimulate them to achieve greater results (Chiva, Ghauri, & Alegre, 2014). Since technology develops extremely quickly, it is important to attend seminars, training, and conferences and then share new knowledge with subordinates during meetings and personal conversations. It is also essential to provide employees with the opportunity to speak at events organized by the company, thus promoting further exploration of their area of business.

One may also recommend seeking talented people with inner motivation. While organizations hire employees, they are most often interested in the level of their competence instead of the approach to work. However, attitudes determine motivation, which, in its turn, makes a paramount impact on an employee’s commitment to learning and superior work. It is much easier and effective to educate and stimulate a motivated employee than to motivate a qualified specialist.

Potential Problem: Lack of Empowerment

The majority of orders and basic decisions are made by top management. The rule called “20 percent time” as in Google, implying that engineers provide 20 percent of the time for projects that they are interested in, does not exist in Apple. The company makes concerted efforts to avoid making decisions on the committees. Given the foregoing, it becomes quite obvious why Apple managers are indisputable authorities. The result is the reduction in the impact of the support units, which helps to attract and retain managers who love to manage. Unfortunately, this concentration of powers may lead to the fact that some managers are accused of micromanagement and substitution of the team’s functions as well as a lack of empowerment regarding employees. Apple culture is strictly top-down: any attempt at rationalization, the desire to change, or even discuss the best way to do something seems to be difficult to implement.

Skills, Traits, and Values of Leaders

Leaders of Apple are expected to work with pleasure and think otherwise than others. The focus is to be on creativity and a non-standard approach. The desire and ability to change the world for the better is what the Macintosh Way is when everything is different is one of the basic principles of Apple. It should be emphasized that this otherness is not underground yet up-to-date and deliberately simple.

It seems that Tim Cook as CEO of such a large corporation should have a locus of control orientation. This is the concept of macro-leadership, where a person forms his or her team and motivates its members to achieve their goals. Here, the situatedness disappears, in the place of which a constant initiative and responsibility come to ensure high quality. Goal setting is another essential skill for a successful vision of the prospects that allows creating conditions for the gradual thoughtful movement of the team towards great results. At the same time, the final goal should be formulated clearly, so that the team feels an urgent need for its achievements.

Katherine Adams. This leader should be flexible and always have various strategies and methods in order to be able to choose the most suitable option for every specific situation. The lack of options makes a leader predictable and weak in the eyes of not only the team but also competitors. Sometimes, this quality works perfectly on the basis of some counteraction to the system, which can lead to original and unconventional solutions. Sociability is of key importance for a person who wants to interact productively in both external and internal business settings. Therefore, the given leader should be able to find a common language with different categories of people in different situations and circumstances of communication.

Philip Schiller. Proactivity is the key trait for this leader since it is distinguished by the ability to initiate a situation on its own. Such a person knows how to get ahead of someone else’s initiative and acts on his or her own motives in the company’s interests. A self-confident leader can inspire assurance and give a sense of security to all team members (Yukl, 2013). For instance, speech should be smooth and precise without hesitation and long pauses.

Managing Immediate Crisis

Considering that Apple has a board of executives and managers, the crisis should be mitigated in the course of the collective decision. In this regard, one may recommend employing a situational leadership theory in terms of contingency and adaptive leadership. Situational leadership takes into account various circumstances, followed by determining which style of decision-making (from authoritarian to participative) would be the most effective under specific conditions. Such an option is useful to train managers to think and act flexibly and also to understand that leaders have alternatives in different situations. Suggested by Hersey-Blanchard model is valued for its practical approach and simplicity. Every level of development of the employees requires a specific management style that would yield the desired result. The following key guidelines should be outlined:

  • Finding an optimal solution to the working problem;
  • Releasing leaders’ time;
  • Creating psychologically comfortable working interaction;
  • Promoting professional development and personal growth of the employee;
  • Maintaining the managerial form of a leader responsible for addressing the crisis.

Proactive Influence Tactics

Three types of proactive influence tactics that a leader can use to impact his or her employees in the given company may be noted, such as rational persuasion, inspirational appeals, and collaboration. The methods of influence through logical persuasion are directed towards the rational principle or the intellect of man. At the same time, the leader presents arguments and information in the form of facts and figures, showing what their benefits are for an organization, team, or person (Yukl, 2013). The methods of influence through inspiration are aimed at linking information or decision with a sense of well-being or human involvement. Motivating or inspiring, the leader touches mood, values, a common goal, ideals, and beliefs (Oc & Bashshur, 2013). The tactics of influence through cooperation imply that the leader seeks advice and offers help. It strengthens communication with others, offering collaborative work to achieve a mutually beneficial goal.

Building Relationships with Leaders

Leaders have a great impact on motivation regarding professional activity, and the assumption of the importance of the role of a leader in strengthening motivation is associated with the adoption of the corporate culture. If the company represents a strong leader who is positively perceived by the employees, the remaining factors of the corporate culture will be reinforced by default (Cameron, Quinn, DeGraff, & Thakor, 2014). It is established that if the corporate culture of the company takes into account a person’s orientation to preserve internal integrity and it is not violated in the process of inclusion in the corporate environment, the mechanism of introjections of external goals is triggered and they become internal for the employees.


In Apple, it is possible to note cross-functional teams as groups of employees of various functional departments of the corporation, for example, such as research, engineering, marketing, finance, human resources development, and operations management. They are focused on solving a specific task and working as a team to improve coordination of departments, system innovations, solving common problems, and creating synergies in business (Kriger & Zhovtobryukh, 2013). The value created by a highly effective team is greater than the number of individual contributions of its members. However, such a team cannot be effective if all participants do not understand their roles or lack excellent interaction skills.

Monitoring External Environment

In recent years, in connection with research in the field of teambuilding, the idea of ​​a so-called shared leadership acquired widespread utilization (Wang, Waldman, & Zhang, 2014). One may recommend using it while considering the case of Apple. The essence of this strategy is that in a group or team implementing a project, it does not necessarily have to have a certain leader. The project is usually divided into several stages, and on each of them, some competence is particularly in demand. According to the theory under consideration, the carrier of this competence becomes a temporary leader, including coordinating the work of the group (Răducan & Răducan, 2014). The following are the ways the top executives may use to monitor the external environment. Drawing up individual databases of companies according to a certain feature or set of characteristics: geography, turnover, the field of activity, etc.:

  • preliminary selection of participants of competitive procedures for a given set of criteria;
  • Search for potential partners: investors, suppliers, and customers;
  • obtaining expert opinions (Răducan & Răducan, 2014).
  • the formation of individual directories of goods/services, their producers, suppliers, consumers;
  • support for import substitution: analysis of the products supplied to the country and its characteristics.

Inspiring Commitment and Optimism

One may note a postulate that is reflected in the principles of Apple’s corporate culture and broadcasted through the media into the external environment: employees are welcome to utilize and enhance the company’s products. All employees have the right to use new products of the company and make suggestions for their improvement by contacting the project team directly. The leaders should make it clear to every employee and stress that there would be no place for bureaucracy.

Promoting Ethical Behavior

The most important rules for promoting ethical behaviors in subordinates are as follows. They should have the opportunity of open and responsive communication with the leader. The employee should be confident in the opportunities for professional and career growth and should participate in scheduling work and present what results are expected of them. By maintaining feedback, the leader should give information about the positive and negative results of an employee’s work. The results of the work should be evaluated fairly, and the achievements should be encouraged. In order to stimulate encouragement in employees, the leader should be specific, indicate the action, the task, and the work performed. It is important to note public encouragement in the presence of colleagues, respect for which is especially pleasant for a person and more valuable than a material reward.

Ethical Challenges

Among the ethical challenges, there is an influence on employees’ values, beliefs, and expectations. The leader should be aware of the above-mentioned issues and consider them while motivating people and formulating goals to be accomplished.


Diversity in the workplace is rather significant for Apple, and it implies understanding of individual characteristics and the creation of a culture of equal opportunities, which benefits both employees and organizations. Ensuring equal opportunities means the formation of a corporate culture, which is characterized by understanding, respect, encouragement, awareness of the value, as well as effective use of diversity, which allows talented employees to succeed, and reputation – to strengthen (Yukl, 2013). The principles of diversity are important for Apple, they help to better understand the international conditions for carrying out activities, develop creative solutions for customers, identify business opportunities, and attract new target audiences. It is important to note that if all employees felt comfortable and involved in the work, then it helps to increase their effectiveness. Openness and diversity allow Apple to attract and retain qualified professionals representing all segments of the population.

Developing Leadership

Initially, Apple used a completely stellar team since OS X was a critically important initiative. In addition, bonuses were foreseen merely for team achievements: no one’s personal work could be highly appreciated if such a high score was not received by the whole team. In today’s world of competition, there is an acute need for two important qualities: creativity and leadership. Those organizations that practice more creative approaches to solve their problems retain their leadership in business. Even small companies that have the foresight and leadership to choose the new course at the right time can quickly become global giants. Apple was once a small firm, but now its name is known as it has a combination of creativity and leadership.

It is much easier to develop creative leadership than one would expect because both creativity and leadership are basically based on a common structure. In particular, they depend on the ability to balance homogeneous additional qualities. In particular, both creativity and leadership need proactivity, acceptance, and preservation of direction accompanied with sensitivity and subtle perception of the context, allowing a leader to capture trends, notice opportunities, and establish links. In the same spirit, creativity and leadership need the ability to focus attention on some point, sometimes – on the point of obsession or tunnel vision, while keeping the field of perception quite open.

Both creativity and leadership require the ability to stay close to internal sources of inspiration and simultaneous willingness to transform inner insight into action.

Due to this similar basic structure, it is possible to stimulate the development of creativity and leadership synergistically. Developing creativity, one can reveal the potential of leadership, and when working with the basic qualities of leadership, it is possible to get a more creative approach to solving problems (Northouse, 2018). More to the point, one can accelerate the development of creative leadership, focusing on two common elements. First, one can develop the ability to be single-minded as creativity and leadership require this ability to choose and maintain direction. Leaders can do this at different levels as focused and purposeful persons and someone, concentrating on important aspects (Northouse, 2018). This is a key element for stimulating creative problem-solving, which is also essential for the leader. Secondly, one can develop his or her ability to reflect. Apple leaders can take time to think things over, rest, and connect to sources of inspiration.


To conclude, it should be emphasized that Apple’s leadership is experienced and focused. The analysis shows that its leaders are diversified and apply different leadership strategies. It was revealed that some issues should be taken into account to enhance the existing practices. In particular, by aligning creativity and leadership, facilitating internal communication, and promoting ethics along with diversity, Apple’s leaders are likely to achieve great results.


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