Steve Jobs' Commencement Speech Analysis

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The audience is able to visualise leadership qualities in speeches when it's demonstrated before them. By analysing the speech by Steve Jobs we are able to identify his qualities as a leader along with the leadership traits and attributes. 'Stay hungry, stay foolish' by Steve Jobs at the Stamford commencement where he address to a group of fresh graduates clearly displays the various leadership qualities of Steve Jobs, the extraordinary inventor and entrepreneur.

Traits such as flexibility, adaptability, drive and motivation can be discovered in Steve Jobs' speech. His communication skills, motivation and his ability to connect to his audience in an intellectual and an emotional level are also demonstrated throughout his speech. Steve Jobs inspires his listeners through his articulated delivery and is able to captivate and connect with them in which his qualities as a leader is portrayed.

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Steve Jobs was and will always be one of the greatest inventor, designer and an entrepreneur who, with Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple Computers. The birth of the iPod, iPhone and iPad have revolutionised modern technology and has also set a platform for the dictation of the modern technologies (Biography, 2014). Being an inspiration to many, Steve was invited for a commencement address at Stamford on June 12, 2005. Throughout the speech, Steve manages to keep the audience's attention and is lively with his delivery. The speech is structured and has connections to his main points. Steve also maintains the audiences' attention through stories. All these aspects contribute to the speech leaving a great inspiration to all of us. This report focuses on the speech 'Stay hungry, stay foolish' conducted by Steve and seeks to identify the leadership traits, aspects and attributes, the reason this speech may influence others, how the speech is being articulated and delivered and how the speech has engaged and captivated its audience.

Through his speech, Steve aims to persuade the multicultural graduate population at the Stamford Commencement to seek their ambition and work with their talents to improve in life by using his three personal stories with a symmetrical structure which empowers ideology, identification and passion to be positively developed.

Leadership is defined as the fundamental practice in an organisation which involves an individual with the intent to make an impact on their followers to effectively achieve a common goal. Steve Jobs' speech reflects various traits, aspects and attributes of leadership.

One trait that Steve Jobs highlights himself in the 'Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish' video is he's the ability to be flexible and adaptable in many different situations. Jobs explains the significant moment in his life where he was fired from Apple and began to start over with Pixar and NeXT.

'And so, I decided to start over. I didn't see it then but getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have happened to me.'

The changing of behaviours in an appropriate way as situations arise or change (Mahsud& Yukl, 2010) is the way of depicting flexible and adaptive leadership. Calarco and Gurvis (2006) assert that adaptive leaders accept change, delivering strategies for the unknown and shifting their behaviour to accommodate new situations and challenges. Steve Jobs embodies this notation of accepting change as he states in the speech and delivered a new strategy in the form of two new businesses - Pixar and NeXT.

Further, adaptability and flexibility are indicators of transformational leadership - which is evident in Steve Jobs ability to change and influence industry business in such dramatic ways. Transformational leaders 'stimulate and inspire followers to both achieve extraordinary outcomes and, in the process, develop their own leadership capacity' (Bass & Riggio 2006, p. 3). Steve Jobs shows over, and over again that his ability to use transformational leadership characteristics and traits like flexibility and adaptability to overcome adverse problems associated with leadership shows Steve's leadership capability.

This leads to another significant leadership trait heavily linked with leaders; communication. Effective communication is an essential component of organisational success whether it is at interpersonal, intergroup, intragroup, organisational or external levels (Wertheim, 2008). Steve's speech navigates through different phases of his professional and personal life and 'connects the dots' (Steve Jobs, 2005). His phrase 'you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards' reflects that he has listened, an important quality for an effective communicator.

Another trait of Steve Jobs that is evident within the Speech is Ambition. Throughout the speech we are given a recount of how he has gotten to where he is through the challenges, he had to overcome in his life which highlights the ambition and drive that he had in order to succeed. Ambition is an important leadership trait as it 'creates the inner fuel that helps drive people towards their vision' (

The speech is inner fuel for the students inspiring and motivating them to be more ambitious and strive for greatness and achieve their own vision. Through his example of being fired from apple and his mindset at that point, he highlights to the students the importance of being okay with starting over and the importance of ambition, drive and vision at that point in order to keep going and ultimately succeed. Evidently, this trait helped Steve Jobs a lot to overcome challenges as his ambition and determination led to the creation of companies such as Pixar and NeXT and with his ground-breaking achievements at Apple.

As per Defoe (2013, p. 1), Ambition can be defined as 'the persistent and generalized striving for success, attainment, and accomplishment' Steve Jobs used this persistence to succeed making it a great example for the students on the importance of ambition to succeed and become effective leaders. Ambition helped Steve Jobs execute his vision and meet his individual goals as well as the goals of his projects leading teams.

After studying his biography, the beginning of his life has inspired me and others, for example, the point of inspiration I found is how Steve built his knowledge of calligraphy for connecting the dots and invented the first Apple computers and more so creative leader, as noticed in great man theory which states that 'leaders are born, not made', opposite to behavioural theory which mentioned that leaders are made, not born (Syque, 2006).

Steve has a lot of traits that impressed me, he is a technology master, for example, after he was fired, he creates his own businesses - Pixar and NeXT - simply because he wants to keep the world connected and engaged in technology and communication network platform.

In his original background, 'Leaders are classified as effective on the basis of the results they achieve.'' (DuBrin 2016, p.72), it's an amazing journey in his life on how powerful little education lead 'Born to be the Boss' of his own moving forward and continue changing products and services that fascinate people into deep emotional links to a product which is powerful. On the other hand, critics both inside and outside his previous company believed that without him, Apple would have no magic formula to become part of our life today and truly, throughout Steve's lifestyle, intuition and curiosity which led him to 'stumble upon'.

Therefore, in his commencement speech, I would consider this to be the greatest speech of all times' why because in the campus as an example, every poster and label displayed on drawers were marvellously calligraphed, and as noticed in Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership Theory (1999) situational leader takes into account as follows below:

· The situation in which decisions take place

· The motivation and capability of followers

· The fact that followers may affect leaders and vice versa

· Available resources and support

· Stress and mood

· Distant events, such as a family argument (Maier, 1963; Tannenbaum & Schmidt, 1958).

He learned about serif and san serif typefaces and this has inspired the whole college students to learn more about calligraphy and typography. This was a beautiful chronology invented in a different way that science has not captured since, and he found it attractive (Biography, 2014).

Within Steve Jobs' commencement speech, it is evident that his speech was articulated and delivered in several ways. Steve delivered his speech in a formal manner in front of young multicultural graduates with confidence and in a conversational manner. His tone was friendly and soft which conveyed the message in his personal stories strongly and truthfully. Steve conveyed his speech at a steady pace that enabled the audience to absorb its contents. He also avoided being monotone throughout his speech combined with pauses and enthusiasm to clearly engage with the audience with appropriate gestures as well.

Language proves to be an effective tool in conveying a leader's message to their audience as it keeps them engaged and captivated. Steve Jobs delivers his speech in an extemporaneous method, carefully planned and rehearsed speech, spoken in a conversational manner using brief notes (Wrench et al., 2011). By adapting to this method of delivery, Jobs can maintain eye contact with his audience and assess how well the speech is being understood by them as it progresses. This allows the speaker to adjust their tone to develop more connection to keep the audience engaged. This is evident in Job's speech when he dictates his third story about death. The audience is seen to relate to Jobs on an emotional level and pay better attention to the message as it engages them both verbally and emotionally. This is one of the biggest advantages of extemporaneous speaking. This style of delivery also portrays the speaker as someone who is very knowledgeable and credible.

Steve Jobs' speech 'Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish' instil leadership styles - like transformational leadership - that determine his style of management which is intensified by traits, characteristics and motives. Though, there are two key learnings that have been illuminated through the speech, those being:

· Trait theory

· Leadership theory

Trait theory suggests that leaders have traits that differentiate them from other individuals (Choi et al., 2012). Steve exemplifies this notation in the speech when he is describing being fired from Apple and not knowing what to do - quit or stay in Silicon Valley. When he decided to stay in Silicon Valley, he decided to do what many would not have given the circumstances. A clear example of trait theories effectiveness, as it shows how he's flexibility and adaptability have a major effect on leadership.

Transformational leadership style is displayed by Steve Jobs throughout the speech. The title 'Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish' is a prime example of one component that makes transformational leadership, the ability to inspirationally motivate their followers (Bass & Riggio 2006, p. 6). Steve Jobs uses transformational leadership to continue the dream of changing the world positively, it is evident in this speech because the title entices followers to come listen and learn from Steve Jobs.


Steve Jobs' speech 'Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish' is a great example of leadership in context. The traits, characteristics and attributes that culminate in developing leadership style and effectiveness, specifically when it is related to transformational and situational leadership. This paper highlighted how Jobs spoke about his personality traits of flexibility and adaptability – as well as – drive and motivation. Articulation and delivery of the speech were discussed with the illuminating knowledge of how Steve uses language and voice to command an audience to be spired and engaged in the leader's message. Finally, coming to key learnings that the paper has presented in the form of trait theory and leadership theory.



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  14. [bookmark: _Toc29189153]Appendix


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