Remembering Apple CEO Steve Jobs as a “Transformational Leader”: Implications for Pedagogy

This paper explores the implications of using Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs as a “paradigm case” of transformational leadership by comparing the practical metadiscourse of remembrances published at the time of his passing to the theoretical metadiscourse of transformational leadership. The authors report the frequency of transformational leadership characteristics that appeared in characterizations of Jobs in the months after his passing in October 2011. Results show that people do remember Jobs as a leader, and as one who possessed three key personal characteristics of a transformational leader: creative, passionate, and visionary. People also remembered Jobs as an innovator, which is not typically associated with transformational leadership but which does reflect the discourse of the consumer electronics industries upon which he had an impact. However, the results also show that two important interpersonal characteristics of a transformational leader were absent in the remembrance discourse: empowering and interactive. The authors discuss the implications of the two missing terms for pedagogy and theorizing, including how problematizing Jobs as a paradigm case might lead to fruitful discussions about the importance of a transformational leader’s engagement with followers.