Laura and I watched a movie about Steve Jobs last night that cleverly wove his personal in with his work story. The narrative focused around his obsessive detail regarding Apple product launches and his laissez faire treatment of people. In a particularly memorable scene, Jobs verbally and very publically cut down Steve Wozniak. The mean-spirited exchange made me think of the following passage from Harvard Business Review:
“In the course of our research, one CEO told us how energized his employees had been by a recent international trip during which he had shared his vision through speeches to large audiences. But when we talked with employees at one of the sites he had visited, we could not find anyone who was excited by the vision — employees didn’t even remember what the vision was. They had completely tuned out his presentation. This CEO had fallen into the trap of giving too much credence to his own staff’s hype about the effectiveness of formal communications. The irony is that during the trip, he did have at least one interaction with a low-ranking person: He scolded an employee for spilling a glass of water while handing it to him. Other employees who were on hand told us they remembered the incident vividly.”
In life and work there is room to make mistakes, to get things wrong, to fail and to try again. When we witness actions like those described above, we make judgements about the values and ethics of an individual. We must remember those kinds of actions will leave a far greater impression than any vision we originally try to convey. To this day Steve Jobs is remembered first as an asshole, a genius second.