Interesting… I find the HBR article hypothesis compelling and intuitively correct (though I’m really glad there’s meaningful data to support it, not just an intuitive sense), but I’m struggling with the Steve Jobs example: I find it to be more contradictory than supporting.
The issue: Steve Jobs was not a competent technologist. So far as I can tell from his history, anything he was involved in designing technically was actually designed by Steve Wozniak or another engineering rock star. He also, that I know of, isn’t regarded as a particularly good manager — indeed, some claim he was a terrible manager who drove off his best employees and generally made people in his immediate circle miserable.
Jobs was, however, a competent product manager — in my view, among the best the world has ever seen.
None of this contradicts the “immediate manager” hypothesis — i.e. that you are much better off if your immediate manager is technically competent in the same areas in which you are yourself technically competent. It does, however, raise some questions about how technical competence affects layers of management not immediately above you, and especially about how different kinds of competencies contribute to the overall success of a company…