In the wake of Steve Job’s passing there have been a number of takes on his character and impact. One of the common themes that have permeated a lot of reactions in the blogosphere and twitter is Job’s tendency to be a douche. Most people have been negative on this, but a recent article, The Jerk on TechCrunch by MG Siegler has gone the other way, stating:
the tech world could probably use more jerks.
I couldn’t disagree with this statement more, although I agree of much of what Siegler is saying in article. How is that? That sentence is the sound bite distillation of a bigger point: we need more and better criticism in the tech world. That is totally true and not contested; however, I contend you don’t have to be a douche about it.
Why not? Siegler argues that Job’s and in his case Arrington’s abrasiveness had a positive impact. Mostly because in both of these cases, they deal with someone in power being douchy to someone with less power. People have to listen to their superiors, even if they don’t like it.
Most of us in the business of driving technical change are advocating to equals or superiors. When people aren’t compelled to listen to your douchiness, they don’t. Poor delivery in these cases will almost completely ensure that no one will listen to you, no matter how right you are.
Additionally, it presumes that somehow Steve Jobs could be Steve Jobs, give respectful criticism, and people would have not listened. Granted, perhaps being Steven Jobs had to include that abrasiveness and so is unavoidable. But I think once he made it, once he was the great and almighty Steve Jobs, he didn’t need to use it as a tool anymore. Yet reports state he still did. I’d believe that his abrasiveness was a slight obstacle to his success that in his case was outmatched by the rest of his considerable positives. Steve Jobs had a huge impact on the world, far and beyond what most people accomplish. In this sense he was a “Great Man” in the classic definition of it. However that does not mean that everything about him was great, or an advantage. Grownups can admire people and yet still acknowledge flaws in them.
But in any case, I’m not informed enough to know if douchiness worked for or against Steve Jobs with any authority. However I’m firmly convinced that it won’t work for the rest of us.