Hero worship is a tricky thing.
In the business world Steve Jobs has become a bit of a hero.
And it definitely seems that many people in business worship him.
There are many reasons to respect what Steve Jobs accomplished in his life. But he was not a perfect human being. As none of us are.
Many people succeed in spite of what they do. They succeed due to some things, but not due to others.
There have been a lot of great articles written about the positive qualities of Steve Jobs. He did have great qualities to be admired.
But in this article I want to focus on his negative traits, which we can also learn from as we lead our own lives in business.
1. Short Temper
There are quite a few examples of Steve Jobs losing his temper.
He would get angry with employees, partners, competitors, friends, family and just about anyone.
Obviously Steve had a lot of pressure. Pressure from within himself to do great things with his company. Pressure from those working for him to make the company successful so they could be part of something great.
According to Harvard Business Review:
…angry people tend to rely on cognitive shortcuts—easy rules of thumb—rather than on more systematic reasoning. They’re also quick to blame individuals, rather than aspects of a situation, for problems.
This can lead to difficult situations in the workplace.
The tricky thing is that anger actually seems to work in the short-term to motivate employees. But in the long run things almost always break down and turn negative.
There are many reasons for anger. Dealing with it means understanding the source. Understanding what you control in the situation and finding ways to control reactions to stressful situations.
Steve Jobs wasn’t above revenge.
What research shows is that revenge doesn’t pay:
…experience more unemployment than other people. Vindictive people also have less friends and are less satisfied with their lives.
If you’re in business there are going to be times when you’re burned. It’s really difficult to let it go. The feeling of getting the person back and taking an eye for an eye burns deep.
But the result is rarely, if ever positive if you act.
Grudges hold no purpose in a well-lived life. They hold people and businesses back.
When you hold a grudge it takes up energy. Instead of focusing on how to grow your company you’re focusing on how to get back at someone that wronged you.
One of the really interesting things from the Steve Jobs biography was his way of providing feedback.
Now, I’m sure that there were times when he would give constructive feedback.
I’ll know it when I see it.
There might be nothing more frustrating for creators, inventors and creatives to hear.
Imagine getting little direction on a project. Putting in great effort to create something. Only to hear that it’s bad and that you have to try again.
No direction. No positives. Just, “do it again”.
Negative and vague feedback may have a place in the world, but positive and specific feedback often work much better to achieve goals.
4. Self Importance
Did you ever watch those Apple presentations that Steve Jobs would give?
They could certainly be exciting and inspiring.
But did you ever get the feeling that they were exaggerated? Self important?
Apple has certainly done amazing things. But being a little humble about it wouldn’t have hurt.
Now, there is a favorite quote of mine from the TV show King Of The Hill. Hank, the main character, confronts his wife Peggy about her self importance.
She responds with something like:
Am I supposed to have a low opinion of myself?
And that’s true. It’s not worthwhile to think little of yourself. But there is benefit to having a balance of how you view yourself in the world.
Too negative and you’ll struggle to have the confidence to succeed.
Too positive and you’ll lose the ability to see areas where you can improve.
We’re all selfish to a degree. And that can be totally fine for a life well lived.
We also all do things that hurt others. That’s part of being human.
Steve Jobs did some very hurtful things including how he treated his first daughter and her mother.
He had a goal for Apple and didn’t want something like a daughter getting in the way.
Good selfishness is that which positively affects ourselves and others. Seeking that is a great lesson for business and for life.
Steve Jobs did a lot of great things. But that’s been the focus of many articles.
It’s important to understand that nobody is perfect. I think we know that for the most part. We don’t really worship heroes, but it does seem to be something that’s becoming more common.
Sports. Celebrities. Business leaders. Politicians.
Perhaps it’s better to respect the good things people do while understand their entire personality and learn from the good and from the bad.