Be a Jerk: The Worst Business Lesson from the Steve Jobs Biography

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/11/be-a-jerk-the-worst-business-lesson-from-the-steve-jobs-biography/249136/

“But asshole logic, not surprisingly, tends to ignore facts that don’t sanction one’s own assholery. This distorted reasoning was already prevalent before Steve Jobs’s death, and is only likely to spread as Isaacson’s biography closes in on becoming the best-selling book of 2011. Five years ago, when Stanford professor of management science and engineering Robert Sutton was researching his book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t, he ran across a disconcerting number of Silicon Valley leaders who believed that Steve Jobs was living proof that being an asshole boss was integral to building a great company.”

“When Sutton published an article in the Harvard Business Review advancing his theory, he was amazed at the reaction. He had published other articles in the Review, many of them longer and better researched, but nothing provoked the response that his asshole article did. Sutton received well over 1,000 emails, and gathered countless horror stories, including one about a worker undergoing chemotherapy whose boss told him he was “a wimp and a pussy.””

“”Even people who worked with Jobs told me that they’d seen him make people cry many times, but that 80 percent of the time he was right, ” says Sutton. “It is troubling that there’s this notion in our culture that if you’re a winner, it’s okay to be an asshole.””

“And effective jerk bosses usually aren’t assholes all the time, they’re able to turn on the charm when the situation demands it, something Steve Jobs, by most accounts, was very good at doing. And it helps for companies to have skilled subordinate executives that are good at cleaning up after the Asshole-in-Chief, much like the sad-faced men carrying shovels who walk behind circus elephants.”

“But Sutton’s book makes clear that for the most part, assholes are bad for the bottom line, to say nothing of the human toll they exact. There are plenty of very successful companies that aren’t led by assholes – Google, Virgin Atlantic, Procter & Gamble and Southwest Airlines among them. Likewise, there are legions of assholes who lead companies that aren’t successful, in part due to their own bad behavior. ”

“Already, the web is full of articles that hold up Steve Jobs as the model of how to lead and succeed in life, with titles such as “Ten Leadership Lessons from the Steve Jobs School of Management” and “21 Life Lessons from Steve Jobs.” Most of these works prefer to focus on Good Steve, but it may not be long until business book authors hone in on the timeless lessons to be drawn from Bad Steve’s asshole ways. The titles write themselves: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Assholes. The One-Minute Asshole. Who’s The Asshole Who Moved My Cheese? ”

“The fact is, Steve Jobs didn’t succeed because he was an asshole. He succeeded because he was Steve Jobs. He had an uncanny sixth sense about what consumers wanted, an unmatched ability to adapt existing technology and turn it into something new, and a commitment to quality that turned ordinary Apple customers into fans for life. Being an asshole was part of the Steve package, but it wasn’t essential to his success. But that’s not a message most of the assholes in the corner offices want to hear.”

Pass this along to all the “assholes” in your life and tell them “a bon entendeur, salut”,”a word to the wise is enough, if the cap fits, wear it”……….;+)

 

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