Bosses like Steve Jobs

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.

More on unruly bosses here and here. Pretty tough world when Jerry Sandusky checks in at No. 18.

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!'”


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