Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Yet another ode to El Jobso...

Interesting Fortune Magazine story about his Jobness. Here's an excerpt:

'Jobs' personal abuses are also legend: He parks his Mercedes in handicapped spaces, periodically reduces subordinates to tears, and fires employees in angry tantrums. Yet many of his top deputies at Apple have worked with him for years, and even some of those who have departed say that although it's often brutal and Jobs hogs the credit, they've never done better work.

How Jobs pulls all this off - how this bundle of conflicting behaviors can coexist, to spectacular effect, in a single human being - remains a puzzle, even though more than a dozen books have been written about him. Jobs is notoriously secretive and controlling when it comes to his relationship with the press, and he tries to stifle stories that haven't received his blessing with threats and cajolery.

This story is one of them. While Jobs agreed to be interviewed by my colleague Betsy Morris on the subject of Apple's selection as America's Most Admired Company (see What Makes Apple Golden), he refused to comment for this story, which had been in the works for months. Dozens of people who work or have worked with Jobs did agree to extensive interviews, most insisting on not being named (even if praising him) for fear of incurring his anger.

History, of course, is littered with tales of combustible geniuses. What's astounding is how well Jobs has performed atop a large public company - by its nature a collaborative enterprise. Pondering this issue, Stanford management science professor Robert Sutton discussed Jobs in his bestselling 2007 book, "The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't." "As soon as people heard I was writing a book on assholes, they would come up to me and start telling a Steve Jobs story," says Sutton. "The degree to which people in Silicon Valley are afraid of Jobs is unbelievable. He made people feel terrible; he made people cry. But he was almost always right, and even when he was wrong, it was so creative it was still amazing." Says Palo Alto venture capitalist Jean-Louis Gasse, a former Apple executive who once worked with Jobs: "Democracies don't make great products. You need a competent tyrant."

The story was published in parallel with the one praising Apple as the number one most admired company for 2008 in the world. If you want the entire list go here.

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