Why Steve Jobs gets a C+
If the blogosphere is to be believed, Steve Jobs got an A for his performance in Friday's press conference, which addressed complaints about the iPhone 4's antenna. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Attensity360, a research firm that studies consumer opinion on blogs and other social media, said Mr. Job's performance was a "qualified success," with "negative conversation" about the iPhone 4 down 30% compared to seven days prior.
I'm not sure I'd be so generous.
The Apple CEO may have succeeded in dampening the hysteria about the antenna's design. But if we just consider the kind of leadership qualities Jobs displayed during the much-hyped press event, I can't give him much more than a C plus.
First, the good. Jobs started his presentation by admitting right off the bat that "we're not perfect," three words Apple watchers don't expect to hear from the infamously meticulous CEO. By presenting his arguments simply and clearly and repeating the company's zeal for its customers, he helped to make his case. And by offering free cases to users, he shows the company is serious about the issue and willing to feel a financial pinch as a result.
But in other ways, Jobs' leadership qualities were lacking. When he used the phrase "Antennagate," he risked an air of mockery that could have offended those customers who have had problems. His "blame the media" strategy--Jobs repeatedly called out the press for blowing the problem out of proportion--will appear dismissive to some.
My biggest complaint: Jobs spent almost five minutes, or about one-sixth of his total presentation, talking about how the antenna problem isn't unique to Apple. He even played lengthy video clips of competitors' phones, illustrating how those handsets also drop bars, or lose coverage, when the phone is held in a certain way.
In other words, he invokes a defense more common among six-year-olds than distinguished leaders: Everyone else is doing it, too. Jobs may be right in saying that, "This is life in the smartphone world," and that the antenna issue is "a challenge for the whole industry." But to dwell on those comparisons for so long seemed overwrought and--even worse for a company built on being distinctive--risked lumping the iPhone in with its competitors.
How would you grade Jobs' performance Friday as a leader?
July 19, 2010; 7:00 AM ET |
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