“If you inspire, you are a leader. If you are inspired, you are an entrepreneur.”
At a glance, Wangari Maathai and Steve Jobs appear to be nothing alike. Jobs is described as abrasive and a bully, while Maathai is saint-like and a humanitarian. When examined closely, both Jobs and Maathai used their goal as a motivator for their leadership. Simply, Path-Goal leaders have a vision and use influence to get their followers to help them make the vision a reality. Path-Goal leadership produces strong results when there is an effective leader who understands how to influence their followers. Both Steve Jobs and Wangari Maathai were effective Path-Goal leaders with clear visions who followed their personal ethical code when working with followers and peers. Maathai inspired people to follow her, like a true leader; while Jobs was inspired to create, making him an entrepreneur.
The Path-Goal theory of leadership focuses on how the leader influences followers to accomplish goals. The job of the leader is to create a conducive environment for followers to accomplish designated goals. While sometimes inspired by the leader, other times followers are typically achieving goals because of the “payoff” that comes with the completion (Northouse 116). There are multiple forms of leadership behaviors. Direct path-goal leaders set clear goals, expectations, and timelines by telling the followers and leaving little room for interpretation (Northouse 117). Supportive leadership is about creating a “pleasant” working environment where followers feel respected and equal to the leader (Northouse 118). Participative leaders allow for followers to be a part of the “decision making” by integrating their opinions and ideas into how the group works (Northouse 118). Lastly, there are Achievement-oriented leaders who “challenge followers” to do the highest level of work possible (Northouse 118). The path-goal theory says that leaders are one of these four types, and that their followers all have varying levels of “needs for affiliation, preferences for structure, desires for control, and self-perceived level of task ability” (Northouse 119). One criticism of the Path-Goal theory is that it’s not a leadership theory that can be easily applied to any specific situation because of the broad definition. Leaders must be understanding of what motivates their followers, and how to use motivation to achieve goals. Thus, being an effective path-goal leader is dependent upon the understanding of how each follower works best.
There is not an ethical leadership theory, because ethics are the values and morals that an individual or society find desirable or acceptable. Thus, ethics are relative to the situation (Northouse 330). Each person has their own ethical values that guide how they interact with themselves, other people, and the world; and when it comes to leader’s ethics, they tell “what leaders do and who leaders are” (Northouse 330). Kohlberg developed the six stages of Moral Development, where a person can grow both forwards and backwards through the stages. The six stages are grouped into three levels; preconventional morality: “reasoning based on self-interest, avoiding punishment, and rewards,” conventional morality: “reasoning based on society’s views and expectations,” and postconventional morality: “reasoning based on conscience and creating a just society” (Northouse 331). While this study has flaws because it was measured with an all-male group that focused on justice, it still has merit with leadership theories because it helps explain ethical reasoning (Northouse 333). The Kohlberg theory puts path-goal followers exclusively in the Level 1 morality, because of their attention to rewards, with no opportunity to grow. This is a flaw in the path-goal theory because it doesn’t give follower the opportunity to grow morally or in a corporate-like leadership ladder. Lastly, Northouse concludes with the 5 basic principles of an ethical leader: respect others, serves others, shows justice, manifests honesty, and builds community.
Maathai never lost her vision for enacting change in her home country of Kenya. Her end goal was to bring “drinking fresh, clear water” back to her hometown (Gettleman). She realized that the environment was being hurt because the spring she used to get water from had dried up. Women needed money for their families, so Maathai knew she could pay women to plant trees (Maathai); this would both help the environment and there would be demanded to help because she understood how to motivate her followers. After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, in her Nobel Lecture she told the audience she believed that leadership needs to be exemplified in every relationship (Maathai). Everyone could be a leader and lead by example. These two ways of understanding leadership show how Maathai was a both a direct and supportive path-goal leader. She was direct because she knew how her followers could help the environment; by giving them the supplies, told them how to plant the trees, and set an expectation of paying them for completing their work. At the same time, she was a supportive leader because she believed followers and leaders were equals and could work together to accomplish her goals. Her clear vision made this style leadership possible, because it drove everything Maathai did.
Steve Jobs is regarded as one of “America’s great innovators” because of his dedication to his vision, making him an entrepreneur (Issacson). Jobs had an intense focus on his goals; he believed in simple products that worked flawlessly. Yet when it came to the execution of his vision, Job’s was a “bully” (Gladwell). He was a difficult man who did what felt best to him, with little regard for how other people would feel. His goal was integral to how he functioned at every moment, and this influenced the way he interacted with people. In true Path-Goal leadership style, Jobs was a fantastic leader because of the goals he accomplished. He was known for being able to “push people to do the impossible” because like an achievement-oriented leader he expected the highest form of level of success from his followers (Issacson). Jobs would give his group a lofty and almost unattainable goal and say how do you achieve this goal, like a participative path-goal leader (Issacson). He was both a participative and achievement-oriented leader because Jobs “had the uncanny capacity to know exactly what [his followers] weak point [was], [and] know what [would] make [them] feel small” (Gladwell). He believed in his followers and gave them responsibilities but influenced them by understanding what would push them to help. Where he gets a bad reputation is how he reacted when his followers did not perform at the level her expected. He was harsh, yet his abrasive “personality was integral to his way of doing business,” very successful business (Issacson). He never took his eyes off the goal of creating a product, which makes him less of a leader, because he was not trying to inspire others but instead produce results.
Wangari Maathai is known as “one of the most widely respected women on the continent” because of her commitment to her vision (Gettleman). Yet, just because she was a humanitarian that doesn’t mean she was always sweet and kind, she was also strong and dedicated. She was a “thorn in the side of Kenya’s previous president;” and she was once “beaten unconscious” at a protest (Gettleman). She did all this because she cared about people, and this inspired people to join her. She was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize for her ability to unite people, and in her Nobel Lecture she called on everyone to lead by example and fight for “justice, integrity, and trust” (Maathai). When explaining his own beliefs, Jobs criticized Bill Gates for “never invented anything. … He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas” (Gladwell). Jobs had an ethical belief in honestly in the form of intellectual property. He condemned Gates for stealing ideas and acknowledged how humanitarian work was better for Gates, seeing as how he was not a true entrepreneur (Gladwell). Jobs believed in trust, trusting his followers and family and company. He believed in working on new projects in continually producing better versions of his visions. With the language we hear comparing these two leaders, Maathai comes off sounding inspirational because of her dedication to an issue that is so vast it cannot simply be fixed. Knowing that producing mass-scaled results is unlikely is hard for people to commit to, so when someone does it is inspirational. While Jobs is spoken about as a visionary in one specific field because of the tangible products he produced. Jobs’s success did end up inspiring people, so there is not a definite truth in his role as only an entrepreneur. Similarly, Maathai used motivations like financial benefit to entice people to participate in her vision, which is less inspiring and more incentivizing, like an entrepreneur. Thus, both Maathai and Jobs had leadership and entrepreneurial elements in the way they lived and led, and the quote at the beginning cannot be taken as absolute truth.
Austen, Ben. “The Story of Steve Jobs: An Inspiration or a Cautionary Tale?” Wired, July 23, 2012. https://www.wired.com/2012/07/ff_stevejobs/.
Gettleman, Jeffrey. “Wangari Maathai, Peace Prize Laureate, Dies at 71.” The New York Times, September 26, 2011, sec. Africa. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/27/world/africa/wangari-maathai-nobel-peace-prize-laureate-dies-at-71.html.
Gladwell, Malcolm. “The Real Genius of Steve Jobs,” November 7, 2011. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/11/14/the-tweaker.
Isaacson, Walter. “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs.” Harvard Business Review, April 1, 2012. https://hbr.org/2012/04/the-real-leadership-lessons-of-steve-jobs.
NobelPrize.org. “The Nobel Peace Prize 2004.” Accessed October 31, 2019. https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2004/maathai/26050-wangari-maathai-nobel-lecture-2004/.
Northouse, Peter G. Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2016.