One of Steve’s most valuablestrengths as a leader was his ability to motivate people to achieve beyond whatthey thought was ever possible. It was said that Steve lived a “realitydistortion field” and projected it on to those around him. “Jobs’ (in)famousability to push people to do the impossible was dubbed by colleagues hisReality Distortion Field, after an episode of Star Trek in which aliens createa convincing alternative reality through sheer mental force” (Isaacson, 2012). SteveWozniak commented on this in Jobs’ biography, in their younger days Jobs andWozniak worked together at Atari developing video games. Wozniak was about tostart developing a game called Breakout. He estimated it would take him two orthree months to finish. Wozniak recalls Jobs relentlessly pushing him todevelop the game in under a week. Wozniak thought it was impossible, but heended up completing the game in just four days.
Later in the mid 1980’s Jobswas unhappy with the long boot time of the new Macintosh operating system. Whenthe head engineer tried to explain why reducing the boot-up time was impossibleJobs cut him off asking “if it would save a person’s life, could you find a wayto shave 10 seconds off the boot time?” A few weeks later the machine wasbooting up 28 seconds faster. This style ofleadership aligns closely with the Path-Goal Leadership Model. According toOrganizational Behavior and Management 10th edition, Chapter 15, inthe Path-Goal Leadership model, “leaders are effective because of theirpositive impact on followers’ motivation, ability to perform, and satisfaction”(Ivancevich, J. M., Konopaske, R., & Matteson, M.
T. 2014). Early studiesin Path-Goal oriented leadership led to the development of theories involvingfour distinct styles of leader behaviors; directive, supportive, participative,and achievement. The directive leader informs subordinates about what isexpected of them. Supportive leaders treat their subordinates as equals. Theparticipative leader works directly alongside subordinates, discussing theirsuggestions and ideas before reaching a decision. “The achievement-orientedleader sets challenging goals, expects subordinates to perform at the highestlevel, and continually seeks improvement in performance” (Ivancevich, at al.2014).
Without a doubt Steve Jobs was the achievement-oriented leader. Stevewas all about setting the bar as high as possible and expected nothing lessthan perfection from his team. Motivation in mostPath-Goal leadership situations is based on extrinsic rewards. However, SteveJobs was always thinking different and he was not known for extrinsicallymotivating his followers. Instead he inspired through sharing his grandvisions. He intrinsically instilled motivation in his followers that compelled themwant to work as hard as possible because developing the best product they couldwas its own reward.
This motivation persevered even when Steve demanded they completelychange something crucial after months of hard work. For example, “During thedevelopment of almost every product he ever created, Jobs at a certain point’hit the pause button’ and went back to the drawing board because he felt itwasn’t perfect” (Isaacson, 2012). The initial design of the first iPhone tookthe Apple team nine months to develop and had the glass screen set into an aluminumcase rather than being all glass with no metal border.
The iPhone was supposedto be all about the display, but in the first design the case imposed on thedisplay. Nine months in to development Jobs told his team they’re all going tohave to work nights and weekends to redesign the screen. Instead of balking,the team agreed and worked harder than ever before because they wanted tocreate the best product possible and they were excited about it. Steve knew itwas crucially important to build his team from the best possible people. “I’velearned over the years that when you have really good people, you don’t have tobaby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do greatthings” (Isaacson, 2012). This style ofleadership is similar to the Expectancy Motivation theory which is the heart ofpath–goal leadership.
Expectancy Motivation theory states “employees are morelikely to be motivated when they perceive their efforts will result insuccessful performance and, ultimately, desired rewards and outcomes” (Ivancevich,at al. 2014). Employees who have a low expectancy may lack the skills,training, or time to successfully complete a given task or project. Employeeswho think they can get the job done well will have a high expectancy. Steve wasalways sure to build his teams with employees who have extremely highexpectancy.
This allowed him to be brutally honest and still be inspiring. “It’simportant to appreciate that Jobs’ rudeness and roughness were accompanied byan ability to be inspirational. He infused Apple employees with an abidingpassion to create groundbreaking products and a belief that they could accomplishwhat seemed impossible” (Isaacson, 2012). It takes an extremely charismatic leader tomotivate followers like Steve Jobs did.
However, Jobs wasn’t known for being a classicallycharismatic leader. Steve was famously impatient, petulant, andtough with the people around him. These are not the characteristics that aretypically used to describe a charismatic leader.
In the 1940s, renowned Germansociologist Max Weber explained charisma as a form of influence independent oftradition and formal authority, based on follower perceptions of the leader’sextraordinary qualities (Weber & Henderson, 2012). Steve was always leadinga team of highly intelligent and skilled individuals who believed they were giftedindividual who were a part of something special, especially by the time theiPhone was being released. John Sculley III, former CEO of Apple, recallsexperiencing Steve’s charisma first hand. “When I walked through the Macintoshbuilding with Steve, it