On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Coro Fellows
Young Leaders

Coro Fellows

As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these 12 Southern California fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

Camped outside their door

One June 28, 2007, herds of people camped outside of Apple stores around the country, anxiously awaiting the next-day release of the very first iPhone. Three-and-a-half years later, the context has changed, but the effect is still the same. Until thsi week's release of the iPad, tech sites, blogs, and other news sources were eagerly buzzing with rumors of Apple's newest product. Figuratively, the public is still eagerly camped outside Apple's door, and the question remains the same: What is it about Apple's products that keep the public thirsty for more?

Steve Jobs has dared to dream of a product line that caters to just about every major part of people's daily technological lives. Apple's products are computers, music-players, telephones, and notebooks. Apple software emails, plays music, produces movies, organizes photos, and chats. And its newly integrated "app" support allows third-party users to fill in the gaps however they wish. In vertically integrating people's daily use of technology, Jobs has seamlessly infused Apple products with consumers' daily habits, blurring the line between technology and daily life.

Apple's strategy reminds us what leadership gurus like Warren Bennis have exemplified time and time again. Good leadership is, essentially, good storytelling. Apple's products aren't just objects, they are integral parts of consumers' daily stories. And, as in the best stories, we're always left wondering, "What's next?"--Neeta Sonalkar

Pink elephants and Purple Dragons

Creativity, innovation, and ingenuity have led Apple to the forefront of consumer electronics and computer software; however, what has allowed them to stay so effectively ahead of the pack has been -- as USC president Steven Sample puts it -- their ability to think of pink elephants.

Steve Jobs and Apple are not only thinking of pink elephants, they are living in a world of their own where possibilities are not limited. In doing so, it has allowed Apple opportunities to reinvent the wheel, with the IPhone and IPod, and blaze a path, with the newly announced IPad.

It is too soon to tell how successful the IPad will be, and even though it holds similarities to Apple's other money makers, it is neither an IPhone or an IPod. It is something else, inherently breaking new ground into a market that Apple is creating. Steve Jobs isn't just laying on his back thinking about pink elephants, he's thinking about purple dragons too, and doing whatever he can to bring us into his world. --Clayton Rosa

It's all in the iLexicon

Apple leadership announced the premiere of the iPad, the new product in the company's arsenal. From the get-go, its consumer base, many of whom have developed fan-like devotion to the brand from its intuitive user interfaces and accommodating tech support, were able to discuss Steve Job's newest toy.

The company is able to effectively stay ahead of the pack in developing new products because it has developed a new lexicon with it, so to speak. Not only is Apple is quick to publish its own talking points (of tweet-able length), but by separating itself from the rest of the market, it creates an entertaining novelty that creates movie-like response even before the product release.

Relax in to your Spaces, or entertain in Front Row and your Garage Band. Some of the novel language is understood by some over others, some of the language matters to some over others, but some of the language is understood by all. It effectively gets all ages talking about, and later purchasing, Apple products.

One could have explained an iPad to someone unaware of the release as a "giant iPhone". But what was an iPhone a few years ago? (Answer: an iPod with additional features.)

Interestingly, the designation as a giant iPhone has also been to the detriment of customer response, as the lack of Mac OSX and the ability to multi-task (lacking features of the iPhone) have been criticisms of the new iPad. And don't get me started with all the feminine product references.

Another important distinction that the leadership ensures is that the new products maintain the intuitive interface that makes Apple unique, combining old features with novel new ones, creating a sense of comfort in the consumer. This distinction allows the flagship product (they make computers too) to be seen not as the first product for some, but as "an upgraded iPod". The interface, given the unique Apple lexicon, creates vast opportunities for loyal customers of the entire Apple line.

Combined with proper message crafting, this language allows Apple leadership to continue to create the build-up necessary to profit from new product releases, assuming they maintain the quality from its predecessors. Is it only a matter of time before we see what combining an iPod Nano with a Macbook yields (iPad Nano?).--Parsa Sobhani

By Coro Fellows

 |  January 28, 2010; 3:16 PM ET
Category:  Corporate leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: 'Insanely great' leadership | Next: A forceful passion

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company