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A reality distortion field (RDF) is a phenomenon in which an individual’s intellectual abilities, persuasion skills and persistence make other people believe in the possibility of achieving very difficult tasks. The term was coined by Apple employee Bud Tribble to describe former Apple Inc. co-founder, CEO and chairman Steve Jobs' ability to encourage his team to complete virtually any assigned or delegated task.
There are two sides to the reality distortion field. The positive is that it demonstrates how Steve Jobs bent reality in such a way that a difficult or impossible task was made to appear possible, or even easy. The primary objective of this technique was to inspire employees and motivate them to tackle challenging situations in pursuit of an objective or goal. Although all good managers aim to inspire their teams in some regard, RDF implies Jobs' legendary charisma, which many believe helped Apple achieve results that otherwise would not have been possible. In this way, his distortion field was a huge leadership attribute.
The flip side is that the distortion field was Steve Jobs' darker side. Many considered him so driven that he would lie, pester, cheat or do whatever it took to succeed. In this light, a cynic would point to RDF as Jobs' ability to manipulate people to do what he wanted.
With the passing of Steve Jobs, the term is sometimes used in a generic sense beyond just the context of Jobs himself.