Posted on October 4, 2012 @ 04:55:00 AM by Paul Meagher
I am 188 pages into the Steve Jobs biography - he is just reaching the 30 year old mark. By this time he is very wealthy and Bill Gates and Microsoft are still a small company compared to Apple, but Steve has let Bill into Apple to work on developing software for the Apple and Bill has picked up alot of ideas about where he wants his company to go as a result. Apple is also going into a decline after a very impressive launch of the MacIntosh computer as people are realizing its hardware shortcomings.
The main point of interest in my reading about the early glory days of Apple was how abrasive Steve Jobs was towards his employees, yet how this seemed to drive them to achieve more than they thought they were capable of. There are probably very few people in this world that can pull this off and the question becomes how Steve was able to do so. One aspect of it was that he was consistently abrasive in terms of not putting up with sub-par performances or employees rather than erratically abrasive. Another aspect was that when goals were met, he could be lavish in his praise and promotions. His charisma and intelligence were also factors, but perhaps the biggest personal factor was the accuracy of his vision with respect to how computing technology would evolve. To prove this point, you should listen to a speech he made in 1983 at the age of 28:
The Lost Steve Jobs Speech
All startups believe they have an accurate vision of the future. It is one thing to believe this, it is another for it to be actually true. Also, even if you have an accurate vision, you need to be able to communicate it effectively and persuasively and, again, Steve Jobs had this skill in abundance. It should be kept in mind, however, that the metaphor of "vision" is somewhat misleading - as if the future exists in the distance and some people have better eyesight in discerning it. This ignores the transformative aspect of "vision"; that what you see in the future is what you strive to put there and that the world will evolve in such a way to make this possible and desirable (many people also talk about Jobs "reality distortion field" when talking about his vision). So you can ask yourself what is your vision of the future both in the near term and the long term, what forces are conspiring to make it so, and do you have the personal and institutional means to make it so. Your employees are not dummies so the "truth" of your vision will determine whether they will go along for the ride, even if you need to be occasionally abrasive to them in order to achieve that vision.
I suspect that Steve's more unpleasant attributes as a human being may have been required in order to achieve what he achieved in business. Business is not all fun and games, and if you can't be ruthless and abrasive when required, chances are you will not achieve the level of business success that Steve Job's did. Very few will. And very few have the vision and intelligence of a Steve Jobs so I'm reluctant to promote the dark side that Steve Jobs seemed to effectively weld in achieving company goals. I do, however, think that business leaders need to be able to summon their personal dark side to deal with goals that are not being met, employees that are not performing up to par, and business relationships that are not working out. Steve dealt with these issues decisively and in no uncertain terms by summoning his dark side, where most others would be less nasty and clearly confrontational - and perhaps less effective?