I am reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, no surprise there as many people are doing so. In one of the earlier chapters, Isaacson describes the relationship between John Scully and Steve Jobs as one where Scully kept seeing himself in Job’s actions and behaviors. He was living under the impression, for a while, that the two were of the same mind. I wonder if Isaacson’s biography will not lead some of us to the same conclusion, that we see a little of Steve Jobs in ourselves.
Obviously we will see on the good parts, the creativity, an uncompromising attention to detail, concern over the user experience, etc. We will choose to see how we have stood up to authority, embraced our inner muse and fought against the odds to win all in the light of one of the most influential people in our world.
Seeing the genius of Jobs in us is natural. It helps us feel and look better. What I am afraid we might do is gloss over how Jobs, according to Isaacson, brought those values to life: being incredibly rude to people, dismissing their ideas, adopting them as his own, and generally describing everything he saw for the first time as ‘shit’.
I have been known to adopt this form of communication as well as work with others who have the good intentions and the bad manners attributed to Jobs. My colleagues used to call it ‘D-Bombing’ as I would swoop in on a review of their draft only to find the weak points and tear it apart like it had been hit by a giant bomb. All with good intentions and a desire to make the work as strong as it could be, but also with consequences.
I forgot about the consequences. I believed that the results more than compensated for the tactics as people continually demonstrated to themselves and others that they could go beyond what was expected of them to do some truly exceptional work. The only problem was that without that constant prodding and challenge most slipped back into what was comfortable rather than continuing to push the envelope.
The moral, that while you can get great results from challenging people to be and do more, there needs to be other ways to sustain excellence than constant criticism no matter how constructive or well intentioned.
The point of this discussion is that many people are reading Job’s biography and its easy to become like John Scully as they convince themselves that they are like Jobs and all they have to do is adopt his ways.
You are no Steve Jobs.
You are not John Scully.
Be yourself and find your own way to excellence rather than copying that of others, particularly when that path is one that might cause others wonder, “you kiss your mother with that mouth?
Do you have to compromise your values or ideals to get great results? No. But you cannot copy your way to that same result, even though it may be easy to read how others have done that.
Be great, seek greatness in others, demand the best from them and yourself, but always be you, as that is the key to authentic leadership.