Quick review: iCon, and where are all the nice people?
If you've seen Pirates of the Silicon Valley, you're familiar with some of this material. The authors do a great job of telling Jobs' personal and professional story; and the story is truly, truly remarkable. It chronicles entrepreneurial experiences that started ridiculously early, tremendous restlessness to "find oneself", eclectic tastes, a relentless drive for perfection, incredible confidence and an almost magical ability to negotiate and to gain people's loyalty.
However, it spends more time on the dark side and not just on Jobs' personal life, famous temper and manipulation of people (don't forget the famous reality distortion field.)
There's incredible pettiness and politicking on display by so many of the players; not just Jobs but even the people at Disney and others at Apple in those early days. Examples of taking credit for others' work, pure meanness, pigheadedness and backstabbing abound in this book. There's definitely genius on display, but so is truly distasteful behavior.
In my final quarter, the Power and Influence class I took sometimes troubled me, because the behavior and tactics that powerful people often employed were (surprisingly) disturbing. The class also made me realize that political games of this sort were almost unavoidable in any organization, especially if a person is ambitious and wants to get ahead. There's a thin line between influencing people in "good" way and manipulating them.
We're taught to believe from an early age that being "nice" is important. Being fair is good, being honest is valuable, that there is "right thing to do" and fed cliches like "do unto others..." and "what goes around.."
I've always wondered if this was valid or even logical (another post on this:).)
However, every person's moral and ethical standards are very personal. The one I have set for myself, for no other reason than I wouldn't be as happy living any other, wouldn't approve of a lot of the egomanical, selfish behavior on display.
Which leads me to the next question: where are all the nice people? When you think of leaders/CEOs/whatever, for how many of them is "nice"(or honest/kind) the first adjective you think of? I ran out pretty fast once I started counting. Is being nice/kind/considerate/generous simply not important or necessary to be a good leader? Is it actually a hindrance to getting to these positions? Hmmm..this post has gone long enough; more on another one, but what do you think?
BTW: I think its amusing that Steve Wozniak's autobiography is called IWoz.:) That needs to be added to the reading list.