Recently I went through a fascinating book about Apple Inc. Book was titled Inside Apple: (How America’s Most Admired–and Secretive–Company Really Works). A quite central theme in that book was to describe how Steve Jobs’s fingerprint is visible in pretty much everything that Apple is and does. Also in that book there was a claim that Steve Jobs had a “productive narcissist” personality type. And it was also noted that the “productive narcissist” personality type is often related for great achievements in business. I thought that was some kind of overstatement, as I had though narcissists leaders mainly create chaos and layoffs and ultimately human & company ruins.
Now I’m going through Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and what a great book tells a story about a truly great visionary… and a horrible co-worker / boss. Amazingly, the things about Jobs’s childhood, youth and soul searching suddenly explain a lot of that control mania that was described in that previous Apple book: Inside Apple. So far it seems like Steve Jobs was an almost non-technical non-businessman who could somehow motivate or seduce technical and business people into building a massively successful business empire around him.
Steve Jobs’s primary asset seem to have been his intuitive sensing of what is good & beautiful, and sensing intuitively into which direction the technology is moving. And it seems his favourite employee motivation tactics were to invite very talented people into making a revolution and then categorically categorize everything that is being presented to him a “shit”… and also calling those co-workers that produce those things with playful nicknames like “a shithead who sucks”.
Furthermore, Jobs had no inhibitions in taking credit for other peoples work and ideas. And he was also good in abandoning people who had helped him and Apple to gain success. But for the startups, the important lesson learned so far, is that if you are able to recognize a good design or a good feature when you see one, use that skill – that may be worth a lot for your company. So far it seems that Steve Jobs was exceptionally good in rating prototypes and products into categories of “shit”, “a start” and “a final product”.
A funny detail is that the good folks at Apple had apparently learned to interpret Steve’s classical “this is shit!” comment, being actually a question with a meaning: “Tell me why do you think this is the best technical solution for that problem?”
Great artists have a good taste and Steve Jobs had just that. Despite the fact that he was a narcissist “shithead“.