Why Visionary Leaders Have Regrettable Personalities
Great individuals will sometimes behave badly because they can.
Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos are perhaps the most striking entrepreneurs of our time and their collective vision has brought about a different world. Musk especially has captured the popular imagination with innovations in the automobile and space industries.
But the three men are also infamous for pursuing their dreams in no-holds-barred fashion. Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs portrayed a sensitive man who could nonetheless lash out at even his most dedicated employees. And people who worked for Bezos recalled him saying things like, "Are you lazy or just incompetent?" and, "Why are you wasting my life?"
‘Most customers don’t care how the sausage gets made, as long as it tastes good.’
As details of Musk's life emerge from the new biography, Elon Musk: Tesla, Space X and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, a pattern emerges: brilliant visionaries with unpleasant personalities. Why is this so? And must it be? Tony Schwartz at The New York Times puts forth three explanations:
1. "Genius covers a lot of sins," writes Schwartz. Great individuals will sometimes behave badly because they can. "A great product is a great product, and you don’t have to do everything right to be successful. Most customers don’t care how the sausage gets made, as long as it tastes good."
2. When levels of money and power are achieved in excess, they excuse individuals from the norms that govern the rest of society. Jobs, for example, drove his car without a license and continually parked illegally in handicap spaces. Yet in the court of public opinion, he was beyond reproach. Ditto for Musk and Bezos.
3. Visionaries are fearful people, says Schwartz. They are afraid of losing control of their vision and, because they have further to fall, are typically terrified at the prospect of failure. But fear is ultimately a poor motivator for underlings and we can only wonder how much more were possible if our most brilliant people were also the most kind and generous.
Nonetheless, Jobs was able to form a large team of extremely loyal engineers and designers. As his biographer Isaacson explains, the teamwork on display at Apple is what Jobs considered his favorite product. That's telling, both because Jobs considered people to be the most important and because he considered them a product.
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Despite incredible economic growth, it is not necessarily an investor's paradise.
- China's stock market is just 27 years old. It's economy has grown 30x over that time.
- Imagine if you had invested early and gotten in on the ground floor.
- Actually, you would have lost money. Here's how that's possible.
Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.
Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.
Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.
- Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
- Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
- But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
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