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.
Don't underestimate the power of play when it comes to problem-solving.
- As we get older, the work we consistently do builds "rivers of thinking." These give us a rich knowledge of a certain kind of area.
- The problem with this, however, is that as those patterns get deeper, we get locked into them. When this happens it becomes a challenge to think differently — to break from the past and generate new ideas.
- How do we get out of this rut? One way is to bring play and game mechanics into workshops. When we approach problem-solving from a perspective of fun, we lose our fear of failure, allowing us to think boldly and overcome built patterns.
Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
- Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
- This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
- The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
The surprising results come from a new GLAAD survey.
- The survey found that 18- to 34-year-old non-LGBTQ Americans reported feeling less comfortable around LGBTQ people in a variety of hypothetical situations.
- The attitudes of older non-LGBTQ Americans have remained basically constant over the past few years.
- Overall, about 80 percent of Americans support equal rights for LGBTQ people.
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