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Steve Jobs: Jerk, and Randian hero

Gene Marks agrees that Steve Jobs was a nasty piece of work in many ways. Marks praises this. [1] Excerpt:

I’m not going to fault Jobs for outsourcing work to other countries where production is cheaper.  Some may call him a jerk for doing that.  Some, like those “occupiers” would demand that he use Americans to make his products.  But Job didn’t care.  Like I mentioned before, his allegiance was to his customers, his employees, and his shareholders.  As a businessman he would do whatever he needed to do to keep costs at a minimum.  Long live the jerk.

As the late Al Davis liked to say, “Just win, baby.” More from Marks:

In his personal life, Jobs was no angel.   According to Tate he “regularly belittled people, swore at them, and pressured them until they reached their breaking point. In the pursuit of greatness he cast aside politeness and empathy.  He verbal abuse never stopped.”  Sounds like a real jerk, doesn’t he?  I wish I could be more like that.

Because I don’t have that kind of self confidence, that kind of leadership.  I’m not so convinced that my way is the right way that I’m prepared to go to the mat like Jobs did so frequently.  Clearly, he didn’t suffer fools very well.  And the world is full of many, many fools and  too few real geniuses.  If Jobs didn’t behave that way would he have achieved so much?  Would we all have benefited from his creations?  Too many business owners, like me, coddle our people too much and avoid confrontations.  We’re not being leaders.  We want people to like us.  Those that have the confidence to be jerks, like Jobs, are the ones that give themselves more opportunities to succeed.  Of course there’s a limit to this behavior.  But in the end, the markets appreciate results.  And nice guys often do finish last.

Had enough? Here’s the kicker:

For all I know, Steve Jobs left his entire fortune to charity.  But I admire that during his life he was a jerk about charitable giving.  But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t philanthropic.  He was.  Dan Pallotta explainsexplains why:  [2]“What’s important is how we use our time on this earth, not how conspicuously we give our money away. What’s important is the energy and courage we are willing to expend reversing entropy, battling cynicism, suffering and challenging mediocre minds, staring down those who would trample our dreams, taking a stand for magic, and advancing the potential of the human race.”  I agree with that.

Seen in this light, Steve Jobs is a Randian hero, the kind of fearless, ruthless creative genius that doesn’t let humanity get in the way of “challenging mediocre minds” and “advancing the potential of the human race.” Too bad that so many human beings, including the ones one is most responsible for (e.g., one’s employees) get in the way of such abstractions. Anyway, I’m very glad indeed that I don’t work for Gene Marks, or for an employer that believes no human consideration should get in the way of exercising his genius.

Steve Jobs really was a creative genius. Nobody can take that away from him. He made better and more beautiful products than any of his competitors. But in the end, I bet Bill Gates will have proved the better man.

17 Comments (Open | Close)

17 Comments To "Steve Jobs: Jerk, and Randian hero"

#1 Comment By Mitchell Young On October 10, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

Since we are back on Jobs, can I point out that one of the most important basic protocols/technology -mp3 — that made his first non-computer ‘hit’ successful was developed almost entirely in ‘socialist’ Europe?

#2 Comment By thomas tucker On October 10, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

No doubt you can accomplish a lot when you treat people like crap. I wonder how much more he could have accomplished if he had treated them with respect.

#3 Comment By Steve On October 10, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

Wrote something similar at my site yesterday:

#4 Comment By Jim Dooley On October 10, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

Best I can figure is that Steve Jobs is being lionized because he made stuff that some people consider useful enough to buy. I never did buy any of his stuff which probably explains why I find the media requiem so unlistenable.

#5 Comment By Morris Howard On October 10, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

People seem to compare Jobs with similar industry-founding like Henry Ford or Bill Gates. He was not that. Oh granted, he knew more about microchips and creating software than most people ever will. Steve Jobs could be considered an artist, like Michaelangelo. He used engineers and programmers to make his visions reality as Michaelangelo used paintbrushes and chisels. His great good fortune was he also knew what people wanted before they wanted it. What they wanted fit his vision, and he was able to gain great wealth and yet remain true to his art and his vision.

#6 Comment By Christopher G On October 10, 2011 @ 3:56 pm

Better man, for Windows Vista?

#7 Comment By Brett R. On October 10, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

Morris, except that he didn’t “know more about microchips and creating software than most people ever will.” He was notoriously nontechnical and had little knowledge abut things like circuit boards and chipsets. At one point in the early 70s, he was working for Atari and was given the task to build a circuit board for the old video game Breakout. He was stumped and had to call on his friend Steve Wozniak (later cofounder of Apple) to help him design it. Woz’s innovative design earned Jobs a huge bonus that, though he promised to share it with Woz, kept the lion’s portion for himself. He also refused to offer company shares to many early Apple employees integral to the success of Apple, leading Steve Wozniak to give them out from his own pocket. That’s the kind of guy Steve Jobs was. He may have had good, even stellar instincts about the potential of home computing, but he was no technogenius. Just a guy more than full of himself born in the technology incubator of central California at the right time.

#8 Comment By bob c On October 10, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

thanks for circling back here, Rod – while Jobs accomplished a great deal, I would NOT encourage my daughters to accomplish things the way he did

#9 Comment By Liam On October 10, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

+1 to Morris Howard’s comment.

But being a genius does not give you a pass to be a bully. Not one bit. Geniuses in certain disciplines may be inclined to a certain sociopathic behavior, and they don’t need any license from a residue of the Romantic cult of the genius-hero.

A sublime genius is a genius who can figure out how to create without being a bully.

#10 Comment By Clem Caddidlehopper On October 10, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

I know people will find this tiresome, but think about it: Had they achieved their visions, Hiter and Stalin would have also been Randian heroes. They, and many of history’s other monsters, were cut from the same cloth as Ms. Rand.

#11 Comment By HT On October 10, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

If designing beautiful and high-performing equipment is your criterion for Insane Greatness, plenty of small-company high-end audio designers have done at least as well as Jobs, and they’ve done it just for the love of music and usually haven’t got rich in the process. My vote goes to them as the real “creative geniuses” in the business/technology world.

#12 Comment By Surly On October 10, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

So what Marks is saying is that the ends justify the means. Sorry—-that kind of thinking has led this country into the mess we are in.

#13 Comment By Roland de Chanson On October 10, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

I agree with Brett R. As an engineer myself, I had worked with Jobs’ products as well as Gates’. These were not advanced technologies but simply knock-offs of the Xerox PARC interface on ever more powerful hardware. Jobs was in my opinion a genius, but a genius peddler. Gates is as well, but I have not heard that he was as obnoxious a manager as Jobs.

I think Linus Torvalds is a greater technologist than either of the aforementioned marketeers. By all accounts he is a thoroughly nice guy to boot.

BTW, does anyone remember the creators of the Amiga?

#14 Comment By Chris Floyd On October 10, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

Hm. I don’t think Gates really got around to giving away substantial chunks of his fortune until after he was married, late in life. Either way, good for him, but I wonder if (as in many cases) it’s his wife who makes him a better man.

#15 Comment By Scott Lahti On October 10, 2011 @ 10:32 pm

Marks: Well, it’s been a pleasure interviewing you for this position – you look like a fine upstanding young candidate. One last question we like to ask, though it might seem like the toughest: what would you say are your flaws?

Candidate: Well, I read your Forbes column on the late Steve Jobs the other day, and, at the risk of sounding like a transparent panderer, I’d say I wish I could be much more of a jerk; I’m sure if I were to work here and, since as I mentioned earlier I’d say I’m quite the quick learner, model myself with unsleeping dedication after your inspiring example, I could become one of our industry’s champion, all-time jerks – not to be a jerk about it, but what the heck, you’re rubbing off on me in ways better imagined than described or immediately intended…

Marks: Imagine that – you, working for me; Jesus, it’s so beautiful, I can hardly stand to think about it!

Candidate: You can, in other words, read the signs…

#16 Comment By Chris On October 11, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

The measure of his success will be where Apple is 10 years from now. In terms of organizational management, Apple is a mess. The corporate culture is highly secretive, information is kept from employees, spying on them for loyalty lapses occurs all the time, time demands made on them are continually unreasonable and destructive of their personal and family lives. Apple’s California counterculture veneer hides a deeply exploitative and hostile work environment. Without Job’s charisma and narcissism to hold all that together, the whole thing could easily implode. The first principle of business is that your organization and your employees ARE ONE AND THE SAME. Without talented, educated, happy and productive people, you don’t have an much of an organization. I expect the whole house of cards to collapse.

#17 Pingback By Steve Jobs – Rotten Apple « Koalasaurus On October 12, 2011 @ 8:01 pm

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