I don’t think Steve did anything intentionally to hurt people — he just didn’t care. He was only being himself and people sensed that. He wasn’t doing things on purpose, it was just who he was.
Could Steve Jobs have been a “nice guy” and accomplished what he did? Almost certainly not, because then he wouldn’t have been Steve Jobs.
Still, his incredible success does not give the rest of us the right to emulate his personality. If you have to think about being a jerk — or feel bad because you are one — it just won’t work.
Steve Jobs was a major, world-class jerk. A friend who knows about these things — but not Steve — wonders if he wasn’t at least a borderline sociopath.
If you define that as someone who does evil things and doesn’t feel remorse, the picture of a smirking Steve Jobs does begin to emerge.
Jobs was busy changing the world and minor annoyances like people’s feelings didn’t fit into his plan. If you had something he wanted, Steve could be charming. But Steve did things his way, almost for himself, building the things he wanted and if we loved them, that was good too. If not, it took a long time for Steve to accept that customers were right and he was wrong.
Sociopath or mere megalomaniac, Steve Jobs was a one-off, a hugely successful genius who changed the world to be how he thought it should be. That is something only Steve could get away with and we are better off for it.
People rallied around his genius and accepted his demands and abuse because Jobs really was smarter than everyone else in the room and 99.98 percent of the planet. Steve delivered on his vision and if basking in his reflected glow required joining a company with a bizarre culture that reflected Steve’s personality, people still flocked to him.
Apple’s reputation as a “mean” and obsessively secretive company is a reflection of Jobs, not the people who work there. Lots of nice people work at Apple, but that doesn’t mean they could persuade Steve to bring back the corporate philanthropy program that he killed.
My fellow blogger, Gene Marks, seems to see Jobs as a role model and wishes that he could be a bit more the jerk himself, in the Jobsian model. (See “Steve Jobs Was a Jerk. Good for Him.“)
Yet, Gene also realizes that Steve was more than a jerk — that he was a genius with what seemed like absolute self-confidence and the ability to make his tech dreams — and some of ours — come true.
My concern is that Gene might have hit a nerve among managers who haven’t found themselves and are willing to try whatever the business press declares to be the flavor of the moment.
I can imagine headlines like “Are You Jerk Enough to be the Next Steve Jobs?” or “Want to Be Like Jobs? Be a Jerk!” or “Think Different: Like a Jerk!” or whatever will sell a book or magazine.
As someone who has been personally yelled at by Steve Jobs (because I didn’t like the first version of iPhoto enough) and followed his career since the very first Mac, let me assure you that bad behavior was only a part of Steve Jobs.
And if you can’t match his genius and ability to imagine and deliver, you haven’t earned the right to match his behavior.