(p. B2) Sadly, it does appear that being flawed in one area may help in others. In an article in The Atlantic titled “Why It Pays to Be a Jerk,” the author Jerry Useem quotes several studies that show that nice guys don’t usually win. Donald Hambrick, a management professor at Penn State, told the magazine, “To the extent that innovation and risk-taking are in short supply in the corporate world, narcissists are the ones who are going to step up to the plate.”
Not everyone thinks Jobs was a jerk. Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for Internet software and services, wrote on Twitter that he felt the Gibney film was “an inaccurate and meanspirited view of my friend. It’s not a reflection of the Steve I knew.”
But the black hat-white hat version of Jobs may be too confining.
In a fascinating interview last year with Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair, Jonathan Ive, Apple’s famed designer and longtime friend of Jobs, recounted a telling story. He remembered a time when Jobs had been tough — too tough, in Mr. Ive’s estimation — on his team. Mr. Ive pulled him aside and told him to be bit nicer. “Well, why?” Jobs replied. “Because I care about the team,” Mr. Ive responded. “And he said this brutally, brilliantly insightful thing, which was, ‘No, Jony, you’re just really vain,’ ” Mr. Ive recalled. “He said, ‘You just want people to like you, and I’m surprised at you because I thought you really held the work up as the most important, not how you believed you were perceived by other people.’ ”
That story and the documentary left me with me with two questions: Would you rather do something extraordinary that benefits the lives of millions of people? Or be liked by several hundred? And does it have to be an either-or question?
The answer, like Jobs, is complicated.
For the full commentary, see:
Andrew Ross Sorkin. “Decoding Steve Jobs, in Life and on Film.” The New York Times (Tues., SEPT. 8, 2015): B1-B2.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date SEPT. 7, 2015.)