Steve Jobs: Visionary, pioneer ... jerk?

The death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs elicited an avalanche of media coverage, most of which called him a visionary genius.

But it wasn't long before another current of comment began to surface. Jobs, one of a very small number of people who could be considered the founding fathers of personal computing, was not universally beloved as a man, even by admirers of his intellect.

“Steve Jobs was a major, world-class jerk,” begins one such article, by David Coursey in Forbes. “A friend who knows about these things — but not Steve — wonders if he wasn’t at least a borderline sociopath. If you define that as someone who does evil things and doesn’t feel remorse, the picture of a smirking Steve Jobs does begin to emerge.”

Coursey goes on to praise Jobs' genius, however, and eventually offers career advice to other would-be leaders: “If you can’t match [Jobs'] genius and ability to imagine and deliver, you haven’t earned the right to match his behavior.”

Elsewhere in Forbes, Frederick Allen highlights Jobs' famous commencement speech at Stanford, one that gained renewed popularity on YouTube and in text after Jobs' death. Allen said the part advising graduates to find work they love is “absolutely right-on advice — as long as you’re Steve Jobs. For many, if not most, people, it might be a recipe for disaster.”

Robin Hanson, writing on the blog "Overcoming Bias," expanded on the point by seizing on Jobs' advice to “never settle.”

“Now try to imagine a world where everyone actually tried to follow this advice,” Hanson writes. “And notice that we have an awful lot of things that need doing [that] are unlikely to be anyone’s dream job. So a few folks would be really happy, but most everyone else wouldn’t stay long on any job, and most stuff would get done pretty badly. Not a pretty scenario.”

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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