Finished Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography. It’s billed as a “warts and all” book, but honestly, the guy seems all warts to me – at least as a human being, which I think is how a man should be measured.
He comes off as a petulant, picky, obnoxious crybaby, and that’s when he’s not cussing out his employees. He treats his son lousy, and his daughters worse.
Yet I type this on a MacBook, and we have three other Apple products in our house, all masterpieces of design. (I pay a lot of attention to design. Like Jobs, my design sense was inspired by Braun housewares from the ’80s.)
This pattern – rotten person builds brilliant company – happens a lot in business bios. I don’t know if that’s a storytelling crutch biographers lean on or if it’s a requirement. The thinking: To get the job done right, the big boss has to step on a lot of toes. Jack Welch of GE was big on the ‘cruel to be kind’ philosophy.
Do great bosses have to be jerks?
P.S.: A great story on market research near book’s end:
Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'”