Steve Jobs: Superman Syndrome, Low EQ, High IQ

Steve Jobs: Superman's EI Profile

Posted Nov 16, 2011

Steve Jobs: Superman Syndrome,

Low EQ, High IQ

What if you felt you had special powers? You felt you were chosen and unique. You were smarter than everyone around you? Your family and teachers made special provisions for you to match your brilliance? You were on this earth to make a dent in it? At an early age of 25, money was not an issue for you? Like superman what if you believed you were different than everyone else and you had a unique gift to change the world? What would you do? What could you accomplish?

How much of our success is made up of our beliefs and confidence in ourselves. Isn't that what we tell our children, "You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it?" Well, Steve Jobs put his mind to it in an "all in way."

Steve Jobs is a complex character and even a more interesting leader to deconstruct his influence in regards to Emotional Intelligence competencies. Different than most leaders we profile his IQ outshined his EQ. Dr. Robert Sutton describes Steve Jobs as the successful archetypal asshole in his book The No Asshole Rule. In spite of fewer EQ competencies than I advocate for a leader his "dent" in the universe was a cavity full of "i products".

On the one hand he has handful of derailers or fatal flaws not to emulate and in spite of these, some glaring strengths that have led him to be arguably one of the most influential figures in modern times. Jobs had revolutionized 7 different industries: Computers, Animation, Phones, Music, digital publishing, tablets and retail stores. Some of his grandiose accomplishments may have come from a narcissistic personality disorder and a pattern of seeing what is possible where others didn't. So how did he do it and what are some of leadership learnings we can glean?

A psychological profile of Jobs leadership style is full of contrasts from a visionary and genius prophetic to a tyranitical narcissist verging on abusing employees and ignoring all views but his own.

Derailers: In Leading with Emotional Intelligence, there is an assessment measuring your EI but also the "Derailer Detector". Jobs has many of the key derailers from that assessment, such as "Smartest Person in the room, "Drives others too hard", "Perfectionism", "Defensive and Inflexible" "Lack of impulse Control and Abrasive" and  "Mistreats Others." If these happen monthly they have to be attended to or the person derails. Jobs as we know derailed and got kicked out of Apple for over 10 years. So in spite of enough derailers to prevent someone else from succeeding, Jobs also had some highly developed EI competencies to go along with high IQ. www/ 

Power of Vision, Confidence and Change Catalyst

These three EI competencies underlie Jobs' success and perseverance. They synergize into a powerful formula when put in the hands of someone who feels special with X-ray vision to see what others can't.

Inspirational Leadership is an EI competency that catalyzes others competencies. Zenger and Folkman's study of 20,000 360 degree feedback surveys of executives found the most influential competency of their leaders was Inspirational leadership. A powerful vision is like a branded sign burned into the brains of your employees. It becomes the glasses that all reality is filtered through.

Jobs had laser power of focus which allowed him to revolutionalize the different industries. His "distortion reality field" as typified by Apple employees and elucidated in Walter Isaacs's new book Steve Jobs highlights what neuroscientists have stated, we can change our brain with attention and focus. He not only changed his brain but the minion of Apple employees and millions of Apple users. Brain alignment is a task of leaders to have their teams and organization on the same page and to be drawn by the same magnetic pull to future goals.

Jobs' vision of simple style and perfection all connected in hardware and software permeated all of Apple's design and reality. It overpowered what can be considered his coercive leadership style, poor emotional intelligence and an iPod full of derailers. Did his employees just tolerate his style for the sake of being a part of changing the world? Did they accept his "Emotional towel snapping" and humiliation in front of peers for the exhilaration and pride of being in a select few of having a seat at the table of coolest company on the planet? I think so. The power of his vision, the Apple values of innovation, style and connectedness all seemed to mute the negativity of his management they may have experienced.

One positive learning here though, is the overwhelming power of vision which often leaders underutilize. It is also the initiating and championing of your ideas and motivating others to follow them. Jobs was a master at inspiration and influence. Peter Elkind writes in Fortune (2008) about Jobs with..."the marketing showmanship, the inspirational summons to 'put a dent in the universe,' the siren call to talent. ...Jobs famously seduced Sculley to Apple by challenging him: 'Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?' '' Jobs' magnetic pull fueled their stretch goals and helped actualize his demanding strives for perfection in their products.

I have found many leaders aren't clear enough about the vision or don't communicate it enough, therefore their followers may not feel their sense of focus or commitment to the vision.

A driving force behind Jobs' leadership style appears to be his confidence, vision, narcissism and change catalyst, which allowed what others saw as his "distortion reality field" to be his beacon for the impossible and grandiose. His superman was put on this earth to make difference in how we relate to our technology and have nothing deter his vision. So how much of our success is our belief, passion and ability to influence others to follow our guiding light? As a leader what tall buildings could you scale in going for your dreams with the vehemence of Jobs?

See the next blog for more on Jobs' EQ IQ ratio and competencies.