Dr. Relly Nadler

Relly Nadler Psy.D., M.C.C.

Leading with Emotional Intelligence

Steve Jobs' Narcissism: Do the Ends Justify the Means?

What is your Cost for Success? What will you Sacrifice?

Posted Feb 29, 2012

Steve Jobs is a fascinating case study in leadership, because he was a phenomenal innovator and marketer while at the same time being visionary and vicious. He is a star in some EI competencies, but he devastated others on the way to success. Do his ends and accomplishments justify his means?

In the last blog we began to look at the DSM IV criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder for Steve Jobs as it helps us understand his motivations and personality. This is exploratory in nature only and educational, and not deemed to give him a clinical diagnosis, as he would have to be a client and interviewed personally. In the DSM IV, you need 5 of the 9 criteria to meet the diagnosis. It looks like Jobs clearly fits 6 of the 9. We looked at two in the last blog. Here we will explore some of the others.

The "Reality Distortion Field" is given a chapter in Walter Isaacson's book on Jobs and it is a fascinating chapter into the inner psyche of Jobs and its impact on others. He would be very charismatic, mesmerizing, persistent and convincing about his vision or wants he demanded to see happen. People would feel under his spell and agree with him. When he purchased Pixar his co-workers there would fall under his spell while he was there and almost have to be "deprogrammed" after he left.

The Reality Distortion Field in psychological terminology could be called an "over valued Idea" from the DSM IV. It is where you believe with conviction your perspective or ideas are 100% true. The belief is not one ordinarily accepted by other people. One leadership error and human error I have seen with leaders is: "my thoughts are facts; because I thought it therefore it is true." People don't check the validity of it just act on it. Jobs conviction and focus could bend reality and often his outrageous demands would be achieved just so they didn't receive his rath.

Job's first true love, Tina Redse chose not to marry him when he asked her because she knew they were not compatible in the long term. She later read about the Narcissistic Personality disorder and stated how that fit Jobs and it helped her understand his changing moods, his rudeness and coldness at times. She saw the issue was his lack of empathy or capacity for empathy for others was missing. Below are some of the other behavioral criteria for the Narcissistic Personality disorder with some example from Walter Isaacson's book, Steve Jobs.

Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions) One of the nine Narcissistic Personality characteristics - Jobs demonstrates this one.

In Isaacson's book, he depicts Jobs reframe of his adoption has having been "chosen and special". As stated in the last blog his parents and teachers created an environment that supported his "Superman beliefs" of having special powers. He had a sixth grade teacher who saw something special in him and also altered the environment to cater to him.  In his sixth grade picture all the students had a Hawaiian shirt on and Jobs didn't own one. But in the picture he had one on. So his teacher manipulated the environment to take the shirt off someone's back to give to Jobs. An example of many of people catering to his wishes and desires at an early age.

Requires excessive admiration. One of the nine Narcissistic Personality characteristics. There are certainly feaures but inconclusive of Jobs at this time.

This behavior is hard to depict from the information on him. It is often said Narcissists would rather be admired than have friendships. Jobs certainly received alot of admiration and seemed to enjoy it, but whether he required it is not clear from the information I have. Early in his career he was somewhat shy and became a supreme pitchman for Apple with world renowned presentations that had people sitting on the edge of their seats. One incident that may lean towards requiring excessives admiration, was after this launch of the iPad, Jobs received congratulations from many people, including president Obama's staff, but he was upset he didn't get a call from Obama.

Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations. One of the nine Narcissistic Personality characteristics. Jobs demonstrates this one.

This behavior is demonstrated in a few incidents. He was a very demanding child, demanding his parents move so he could be in a better school district. Jobs stated that if he didn't go to Reed College an expensive college he wouldn't go at all and forcing his parents to finance it, which was huge burden for them. When he decided he wanted job at Atari, he went in and declared he wasn't leaving until they gave him a job. How many career counselors would advocate that strategy?

There is a story that Jobs was caught speeding at 100 miles an hour and received a ticket. While the officer was writing the ticket he honked his horn and told the officer he was in a hurry. He was lucky the officer didn't get upset with him. Then he took off and again drove at 100 miles an hour.

Jobs regulary parked in a handicapped space and  didn't demonstrate any remorse or guilt.

The ends are a man, company and products that changed the world. The means left scorched earth, devastated, fearful and cautious people and scared as a result of Jobs narcissistic personality disorder. Is it possible to have the same ends with a more humanistic and emotionally intelligent means? Are your means getting the ends you want? Are there bodies strewn on the ground when you arrive at your goal? We will explore the last of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder characteristics for Jobs in the next blog.

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