How do you become a business titan that treats employees like garbage, creates products intended to be monopolies, charges excessive prices that result in outrageous profits, practices significant tax avoidance, and yet not get pilloried (on the contrary, become deified) by the anti-business media? It’s simple; you are Steve Jobs and you are just too cool to criticize.
There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs was a major player in the development of the personal computer, transformed the animation business, and developed products in the last decade of his life that changed our culture and society. His finest quality was the ability to recognize the needs of his customers without relying on market research. He told people what they needed, and then delivered a product that they may have never thought they wanted – but to which they ultimately became addicted.
Yet, as accounted by Walter Isaacson in his recently-published biography of the late Mr. Jobs, the man was a fruitcake (no pun intended since he called himself a fruitarian). His behavior towards other people was, at best, erratic, and very often anti-social.
Perhaps the most telling characterization of Jobs took place amid his confrontation with John Sculley in the mid-1980s. After a harrowing day of dealing with Jobs – who had just been relieved of his position as head of the struggling Macintosh division by the Apple Board of Directors – Sculley went home and discussed the matter with his wife. She jumped in her car and found Jobs at a local restaurant, where he was plotting a coup. He initially refused to look at her, and, when she insisted upon speaking with him, responded with his practiced, unblinking stare. Recoiling, she told him “When I look into most people’s eyes, I see a soul. When I look into yours, I see a bottomless pit, an empty hole, a dead zone.” That about sums up the famous Steve Jobs.
But the fact that he broke almost all the rules of the Left and yet remained an icon to them is quite instructive. Here are some examples:
1. He was a horrible employer. He maligned employees in public meetings, and often axed staff members for no good reason. When he needed to reduce the head count at Pixar, he insisted on firing people immediately without any severance. One of his lieutenants pleaded with him to provide two weeks’ notice, to which he replied “OK, but the notice is retroactive to two weeks ago.” Can you imagine what would happen if Bank of America ever did that?