One beyond what they thought was ever possible. It

One of Steve’s most valuable
strengths as a leader was his ability to motivate people to achieve beyond what
they thought was ever possible. It was said that Steve lived a “reality
distortion field” and projected it on to those around him. “Jobs’ (in)famous
ability to push people to do the impossible was dubbed by colleagues his
Reality Distortion Field, after an episode of Star Trek in which aliens create
a convincing alternative reality through sheer mental force” (Isaacson, 2012). Steve
Wozniak commented on this in Jobs’ biography, in their younger days Jobs and
Wozniak worked together at Atari developing video games. Wozniak was about to
start developing a game called Breakout. He estimated it would take him two or
three months to finish. Wozniak recalls Jobs relentlessly pushing him to
develop the game in under a week. Wozniak thought it was impossible, but he
ended up completing the game in just four days. Later in the mid 1980’s Jobs
was unhappy with the long boot time of the new Macintosh operating system. When
the head engineer tried to explain why reducing the boot-up time was impossible
Jobs cut him off asking “if it would save a person’s life, could you find a way
to shave 10 seconds off the boot time?” A few weeks later the machine was
booting up 28 seconds faster.

This style of
leadership aligns closely with the Path-Goal Leadership Model. According to
Organizational Behavior and Management 10th edition, Chapter 15, in
the Path-Goal Leadership model, “leaders are effective because of their
positive impact on followers’ motivation, ability to perform, and satisfaction”
(Ivancevich, J. M., Konopaske, R., & Matteson, M. T. 2014). Early studies
in Path-Goal oriented leadership led to the development of theories involving
four distinct styles of leader behaviors; directive, supportive, participative,
and achievement. The directive leader informs subordinates about what is
expected of them. Supportive leaders treat their subordinates as equals. The
participative leader works directly alongside subordinates, discussing their
suggestions and ideas before reaching a decision. “The achievement-oriented
leader sets challenging goals, expects subordinates to perform at the highest
level, and continually seeks improvement in performance” (Ivancevich, at al.
2014). Without a doubt Steve Jobs was the achievement-oriented leader. Steve
was all about setting the bar as high as possible and expected nothing less
than perfection from his team.

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Motivation in most
Path-Goal leadership situations is based on extrinsic rewards. However, Steve
Jobs was always thinking different and he was not known for extrinsically
motivating his followers. Instead he inspired through sharing his grand
visions. He intrinsically instilled motivation in his followers that compelled them
want to work as hard as possible because developing the best product they could
was its own reward. This motivation persevered even when Steve demanded they completely
change something crucial after months of hard work. For example, “During the
development 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 it
wasn’t perfect” (Isaacson, 2012). The initial design of the first iPhone took
the Apple team nine months to develop and had the glass screen set into an aluminum
case rather than being all glass with no metal border. The iPhone was supposed
to be all about the display, but in the first design the case imposed on the
display. Nine months in to development Jobs told his team they’re all going to
have to work nights and weekends to redesign the screen. Instead of balking,
the team agreed and worked harder than ever before because they wanted to
create the best product possible and they were excited about it.

Steve knew it
was crucially important to build his team from the best possible people. “I’ve
learned over the years that when you have really good people, you don’t have to
baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great
things” (Isaacson, 2012).  This style of
leadership is similar to the Expectancy Motivation theory which is the heart of
path–goal leadership. Expectancy Motivation theory states “employees are more
likely to be motivated when they perceive their efforts will result in
successful 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. Employees
who think they can get the job done well will have a high expectancy. Steve was
always sure to build his teams with employees who have extremely high
expectancy. This allowed him to be brutally honest and still be inspiring. “It’s
important to appreciate that Jobs’ rudeness and roughness were accompanied by
an ability to be inspirational. He infused Apple employees with an abiding
passion to create groundbreaking products and a belief that they could accomplish
what seemed impossible” (Isaacson, 2012).  It takes an extremely charismatic leader to
motivate followers like Steve Jobs did. However, Jobs wasn’t known for being a classically
charismatic leader.  

 Steve was famously impatient, petulant, and
tough with the people around him. These are not the characteristics that are
typically used to describe a charismatic leader. In the 1940s, renowned German
sociologist Max Weber explained charisma as a form of influence independent of
tradition and formal authority, based on follower perceptions of the leader’s
extraordinary qualities (Weber & Henderson, 2012). Steve was always leading
a team of highly intelligent and skilled individuals who believed they were gifted
individual who were a part of something special, especially by the time the
iPhone was being released. John Sculley III, former CEO of Apple, recalls
experiencing Steve’s charisma first hand. “When I walked through the Macintosh
building with Steve, it