After the death of Steve Jobs, stories leaked out — mainly in a biography — about his genius and his cruelty. Does one go with the other?
The question has been analyzed by several authors, including Walter Isaacson, who wrote the best-selling biography of Jobs. Isaacson told of Jobs’s genius, as well as his extraordinary insensitivity. For instance, according to Isaacson, Jobs routinely parked his Mercedes in handicapped spots and seemed to delight in publicly humiliating employees while taking credit for their ideas, too.
Of course, Jobs also engineered one of the biggest business successes of the century. So, we come to the question again: Does being a jerk boss lead to success?
A Stanford professor of management, Robert Sutton, examined the question in his book (crude-language alert!), The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.
Sutton found that a lot of managers, in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, firmly believed in what they saw as Jobs’s secret to success: The bigger the jerk, the better it is for business.
Except Sutton found it’s not true. He maintains in his book that there’s really no correlation between being a jerk and being a success — “success” being defined as “making a lot of money” or “running a company that makes a lot of money.”
Sutton notes that for every Apple Corp., headed by a jerk, there are the Googles, the Virgin Atlantics, the Procter & Gambles and Southwest Airlines, which are successful and, according to most accounts, aren’t headed by jerks, but rather by sensitive people who put their employees’ interests ahead of their own.
So, the good news is that you don’t have to be a jerk to be a success. We assume you think that’s good news, too.