Steve Jobs Broke Every Leadership Rule: “Don’t Try It Yourself”.
Joe Nocera observes in The New York Times today that Steve Jobs
violated every rule of management. He was not a consensus-builder but a dictator who listened mainly to his own intuition. He was a maniacal micromanager. He had an astonishing aesthetic sense, which businesspeople almost always lack. He could be absolutely brutal in meetings: I watched him eviscerate staff members for their “bozo ideas.” . . . He never mellowed, never let up on Apple employees, never stopped relying on his singular instincts in making decisions about how Apple products should look and how they should work.
Likewise, Adam Lashinsky recalled in Fortune a few months ago the moment in 2008 when Jobs gathered the team that had developed the MobileMe e-mail system and demanded to know
“Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?” Having received a satisfactory answer, he continued, “So why the fuck doesn’t it do that?”
For the next half-hour Jobs berated the group. “You’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation,” he told them. “You should hate each other for having let each other down.”
Lashinsky went on to observe that “to Apple’s legion of admirers, the company is like a tech version of Wonka’s factory, an enigmatic but enchanted place that produces wonderful items they can’t get enough of. That characterization is true, but Apple also is a brutal and unforgiving place, where accountability is strictly enforced, decisions are swift, and communication is articulated clearly from the top. . . . Apple’s ruthless corporate culture is just one piece of a mystery that virtually every business executive in the world would love to understand: How does Apple do it?”
Not according to the usual rules, that’s for sure. In the words of Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Stanford University professor, “Most books about leadership read like the Scout manual: CEOs and top managers should be authentic, considerate, sensitive, and modest, as well as creative, smart, and strategically brilliant. All true – but not very useful in the real world, where the person in the corner office might be as approachable as the junkyard dog. Exhibit A: Steve Jobs.”
There’s a reason Steve Jobs is Exhibit A, and not even B or C. It is because his exceptional and unique vision and certainty of what he saw excused his tyrannical behavior. Or, no, they didn’t excuse it but made it necessary. And the power of his personality and the sweep of what he achieved meant that even after all his punishment of disappointing staff and others, all his berating of many of those around him, people at Apple were heartbroken to see him step down from the chief executive’s job this week.
Go ahead and behave the way he did yourself, as a CEO—as long as you’ve got all of Steve Jobs’ charisma, revolutionary vision, and innovative genius, along with his relentless drive and temper.