Wired — Emulating Steve Jobs

There’s an article in the most recent Wired that discusses the Steve Jobs mythos — especially as presented in Walter Isaacson’s biography — and the effect that’s had on the management styles of today’s entrepreneurs. It’s sort of an irritating article, reads like just another excuse to write a cover story about Jobs, largely disregards the existence of women entrepreneurs, etc. Despite that, I think there’s some great Management stuff in there, especially as pertains to contemporary ways of thinking about managing employees and output. In addition, there are several books mentioned in the article that we might want to take a look at:

Good Boss, Bad Boss: How To Be the Best…and Learn From the Worst by Robert I. Sutton

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert I. Sutton

How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate by Andrew Hargadon

Some good quotes from the article (see the annotated PDF in the dropbox for the full article):

We turn to the lives of successful people for inspiration and instruction. But the lesson here might make us uncomfortable: Violate any norm of social or business interaction that stands between you and what you want. Jobs routinely told subordinates that they were assholes, that they never did anything right.

The acolytes…have taken the life of Steve Jobs as license to become more aggressive as visionaries, as competitors, and above all as bosses.

Jobs’s brashness has helped inspire a larger reaction to several decades of conventional wisdom about the importance of worker empowerment and consensus decision-making. It took a hippie-geek like Jobs to give other  bosses permission to be aggressive and domineering again.

“Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected”

Apple employees rarely quit when Jobs called them shitheads, or even when he took credit for their ideas. These sorts of testimonials are the proof, for many entrepreneurs and executives, that strong leadership and impressive results will lead employees to tolerate, even to embrace, unpleasant work conditions.

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s most profitable hedge fund, has been called the “Steve Jobs of investing.” All Bridgewater employees are expected to clash with each other, to speak without filters or concerns about sensitivities. Dalio says he shares Jobs’s belief in the benefits of a tough, brutally candid office environment, though he requires his employees to dish it out to him just as much as they take it.

Jeff Atwood, creator of Stack Exchange (A network of online Q&A sites): “You gird for war,” he says about the ethos of running a startup. “You need a spiritual fervor, an almost religious belief in the mission, to throw yourself on the shores and attack.”

To some, the Steve Jobs story reveals the value of sticking to one’s vision. To others, it’s a study in cruelty and alienation.

Matt Haughey, founder of Metafilter, proposed building a “lifestyle business,” a smaller-scale enterprise that rejects venture capital and funds itself, leaving its owner time for pursuits outside of work.

Rather than planning to take their startups public, they are shooting for enough profit to sustain their employees and themselves.

“Shapers” — those who overcame tremendous opposition to transform vision into reality.

Psychological studies show that abusive bosses reduce productivity, stifle creativity, and cause high rates of absenteeism, company theft, and turnover.


Austen, Ben. “The Story of Steve Jobs: An Inspiration or A Cautionary Tale?” Wired. August 2012.

One Response to “Wired — Emulating Steve Jobs”
  1. dem says:

    Cate, this reminds me that we might want to do a skim-read of Gladwell’s Outliers to see if there’s interesting material there re: Owners or Management threads. Can you see if there’s a copy available in the library, and if not I can see whether I have a copy up here or not.

    Also I have a bunch of articles on Apple, taking a more skeptical / critical / at-least-not-fanboy view of the company and corporate practices. I’ll try to get some posts from those online.

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