That one sentence can probably encompass all the workplace related bitterness that Steve Jobs is said to have dished out to Apple employees.
At some level, I am a little bothered by the focus on Steve Jobs’ negative personality traits. It seems to shift the focus from his true legacy and his innate talents for product, strategy and marketing, among other things.
My thoughts on this are:
1. No one is perfect. Most of us have the liberty of hiding certain aspects of our personality from being exposed. Steve did not have that liberty. To his credit, he did not attempt to hide his rough edges.
2. Leadership is not about keeping everyone happy. It is about showing a vision and getting fired up to achieve it. By any definition, a vision is aggressive if it has to “make a dent in the world”. So people who cannot keep up are going to fall behind, are going to be told that they are falling behind. It is the prerogative of a leader to tell a team that they had let each other down and should be ashamed of themselves.
3. In some of his videos, Steve comes across genuinely grateful to his teams for putting in massive amount of work, genuinely humble when his decisions have been questioned in public, and gracious in praise of others. Heck, before he decided to go “thermonuclear” on Google, when questioned by Walt Mossberg if he was going to take Google properties off the iPhone, he answered, “No. Just because you compete with someone, doesn’t mean you have to be rude to them.”
So, it is rather unfortunate that the personality gets taken out of context. Most people who take pride in their work would be offended if someone told them their work sucked. How many of us would be spurred by it to try that much more harder? How many of us would think that we would be that much better off for it? The answer to both those questions should be Yes even if your boss is not Steve Jobs. What do you think?
Addition: Aug 24, 2013
I got many comments privately about this post. Thanks for taking the time to write. I thought I would add some clarification. I was motivated to write this after reading the Wired article, “The Story of Steve Jobs – Inspiration or Cautionary Tale“. There have been similar other articles with titles like this one from Inc., “Steve Jobs, the Entrepreneur: A Hero or a Horror?” What I wrote above, I think, is an employee perspective upon being told that their work sucks. It is offending, no doubt, but can also act as a trigger for some honest self-introspection. It pains me to read that there are business leaders who use Steve Jobs’ acerbic leadership style as an excuse for their own arrogance with employees. I do not subscribe to that. So I suppose, in that regard, I am a rejector according to the Wired article. What worked for one is not a recipe for another. Your mileage may vary. Thanks!