It appears that Steve Jobs, the Great One, praised be He, has returned to his perch at Apple. His name showed up yesterday on an Apple press release for the first time since he took medical leave in January, and Reuters reported that he was spotted on the Apple campus.
Aside from empathy for another human being's pain and suffering, why do some of us care so much? Why are we so fascinated by this man? Is it because we're still trying to figure out how one guy could create the first truly personal computer (Macintosh), and then change the way we think about music (iPod and iTunes), and then put the Internet in a person's jeans pocket (iPhone)? Is it because we fear Apple can't thrive without him? That as soon as Steve Jobs goes away, the magic new machines will stop coming our way?
Speaking for myself, I think it's because I'm still hoping that I will somehow grow to genuinely like the person I have so long admired. It is vexing that this man who has done such extraordinary things is such an (allegedly) nasty and unpleasant person. Maybe this is the year he'll grow out of his petulant narcissism, and will become as decent as he is brilliant. One can always hope.
Or perhaps the darkest possibility is also the true one: that to be that extraordinary a leader, you must be a tyrant. From a recent Fortune profile:
"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."
Jobs may have spectacular personal taste. But his true greatness, it seems, is in his ability to get the most of out of his subordinates. He has found a way to blend an artist's style of vision and discipline with the practical realities of being a corporate leader. But while his products are amazing, his methods are not very pretty to behold.
- The Apple "i" -- a parody of Steve Jobs and Apple.
- Atlantic piece about what makes a great leader.