Michael Malone has a great opinion column in today's Wall Street Journal called iGenius, which digs into the question of why Apple under Steve Jobs continues to produce such great new designs, now the iPhone that -- at first blush -- will change what it means to carry a portable device. I too am constantly impressed with parade of products that have come out of Apple since Jobs returned, but also, let's face it, Jobs has a track-record of demeaning others and taking credit for their work.
Malone -- who once wrote a book about Jobs and his company -- points out "there will always be things about him that are unforgivable -- cruelties and manipulations (especially to Steve Wozniak), early crimes (illegal telephones, ironically), megalomania, and an unquenchable need to take credit from others (Do you know who led the original Mac team? Invented the iPod? Devised the new iPhone? I don't think so) -- and that no achievement will ever erase." And, as Malone concludes, despite all the smart people out there, competitors seem incapable mimicking Jobs' ability to pull one rabbit after another out of the hat, and so, "For all his demons, thank God for him in this age of cookie-cutter CEOs. For a decade now (and for another decade at the beginning of the PC age) he has run the most enthralling and rewarding show in high-tech."
I agree with Malone and, in fact, when I was writing The No Asshole Rule, one Silicon Valley insider after another after another argued to me "What about Steve Jobs, doesn't he show how being an asshole make leaders and their companies more effective at times? Doesn't he show that assholes are worth the trouble" which led me to write a chapter on "The Virtues of Assholes" that starts out with the curious case of Steve Jobs, and goes onto make an empirical case for the upsides of assholes. BUT I also make clear that I still don't want to work with assholes -- there are plenty of other successful companies that aren't led by assholes. Jobs is famous for saying the "the journey is the reward," and for my tastes, even if the journey ends well, it still sucks when you have to travel with an asshole, or worse yet, a pack of them. If you are successful asshole, you are still an asshole and I don't want to be around you.