Steve Jobs is regarded as one of the most inspirational entrepreneurs that the world has ever seen due to his contribution to innovate approach to design and technology. His disregard for people who said it wasn’t possible and his vision for the future made him a pioneer. His ability to motivate himself and the others around to produce ground breaking results always interested me. So how did he motivate himself and the others around him to run through walls for him?
The ‘reality distortion field’ is a term first used by Bud Tribble at Apple Computer in 1981, to describe Steve Jobs’s charisma and its effects on the developers working on the Macintosh project. The reality distortion field was said to be Steve Jobs’s ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. It was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion, scale of difficulties and size of improbability. Jobs could also use the reality distortion field to appropriate other’s ideas as his own. This ability was uncanny as if he placed his developers under a spell, an illusion that nothing was impossible.
Jobs was a master of dreaming big and he encouraged others to do the same. Sometimes the inspiration came in the form of a question that forced people to re-examine their lives, purpose and achievements. A great example of this is the story of how Jobs convinced the then-Pepsi president John Sculley to come to Apple is well known.
He asked Sculley “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of his life or come with me and change the world?” Sculley said the question landed “like a punch to the gut.” In a similar fashion Apples marketing always starts with the why. Which is brilliantly demonstrated in Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk.
Having said this Jobs didn’t motivate in one single way. One of Jobs’ core values was to create quality products. As a perfectionist himself, he had little tolerance for the errors of others — staff mistakes were often met with humiliating lectures or even a quick sacking. This created a sense of fear amongst staff, which was tolerated mainly because Apple had a sterling reputation as a leader in its field.
This isn’t exactly an orthodox way or specific management style many would encourage but for Jobs in the industry he was working for it worked and with consistent over-achievement it was rarely questioned.
Steve Jobs fit in the transactional leadership description. He directed efforts of others through tasks and structures. Steve influenced his employees with a strong desire for hard work, shared passion, and clear vision. Jobs was driven by his desire to create great products as opposed to what the customers thought they wanted. Jobs thought about every detail of the product hence delivering products that the customers didn’t even realise they needed. Steve jobs employees knew that he was not in it for the money but for the desire to build something great. Thus employees would be able to endure his rants and be further motivated by them. He made his employees believe they can do something great.
Having said all this Jobs had to be motivated himself. What it all boils down to was passion. In this great interview Jobs explains how if you don’t love what you do, you’re going to give up. To be able to convince and motivate a team or anyone else, you truly have to believe in what you’re saying. You have to have that drive. To showcase as a leader that you are going to put 100% in to the project so you can inspire your team to do the same.
To summarise Steve had an innate ability through his words, charisma to convince other around him to believe in the impossible. He would strive for only perfection and when that gets results it creates a culture, a motivated workforce that can strive and achieve for one common goal. He could be ruthless, he could insensitive but he was successful. A leader can convince and motivate anyone to believe in what they are creating, which is what Jobs did.