On Steve Jobs and good and brutal bosses
Here are responses we received to the blog on former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’s management style and Apple’s corporate culture, both which fly in the face of calls for empathetic leaders and empowering cultures put forth in recent years by numerous safety and health organizational behavior consultants…
● Leadership occurs at all levels of an organization. If things go well, top leadership can’t take all the credit. If things go poorly, they can’t take all the blame.
While many EHS staff folks may not always reside at the top of the management chain, they’ve got more ability to influence an organization and its outcome than first perceived. No one ever said that influencing outcomes is easy, but you’d be amazed how much influence staff and operating folks have at ALL levels of an organization.
John G. Maxwell, in his 2007 edition of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, cites the “law of influence.” He states that the true measure of leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less.
Chris Laszcz-Davis, Principal
MS, CIH, REA, AIHA Fellow, AIC Fellow
● One person – wherever they sit in an organization can influence many. And since we are using quotes, Peter Block, author, and consultant once said something about influence in this way: “Real change often occurs somewhere in the middle of an organization. Great things happen and the people at the top begin to say ‘ keep going – we’re here to cheer for you!’…”
● I believe that individuals are generally exposed to various leadership principles (over the course of their career) or a model before they can begin to claim those principles / model / style as their own.
There are many leadership / coaching principles that can be used effectively depending on those who are being influenced – their skills and motivation taken into consideration of course. Often times leadership and coaching principles are co-mingled when we are actually addressing coaching more than leadership (at or near the top).
Even more, many corporations have various sub-cultures and leadership styles that co-exist or correlate with the kinds of performance being generated.
With that said, generally speaking most organizations (here in the USA at this time) will benefit most when there is a high concern for people and a high concern for productivity. The high concern for people and their safety fits into this equation.
Also the high performance (safety culture) is typically highly collaborative or engaged.
Generally, I attach most to the caring-leadership or servant leadership styles – whatever terms you begin to use. I believe leadership can be learned and used effectively by those who have the conviction and will to do the right thing – even, at times, with leaders above them who do not support their particular style of influence. These caring-leadership driven managers / supervisors can have great impact and will often remain in an organization, even with conflicting styles if they obtain just a little support. Of course there are other factors. I have a good bit of data that shows sound empirical support for the caring leader or coach.
The Safety Coach® www.davidsarkus.com
● A lot of people think it’s worth it to work for a brilliant jerk. That doesn’t make being a jerk a good idea, especially for those of us who aren’t that brilliant.
Regarding "actively caring leadership". I think this is almost an oxymoron. Unless leaders were brought up by their parents, teachers, mentors and people they look up to, they can never be actively caring.
They might be able to be "trained" to look like they care but I think most of us know when we are being given the "actively caring" snow job by senior leadership. Talking the talk is great but you have to actually believe and know what you are saying and show it without having to be taught to act like you care.
Apple's leadership works (at least for now) because there is the dream that good things will happen at Apple and therefore for those employees who work there. The company kind of reminds me of another similar type of leadership model that worked well for a number of years at W.L. Gore. Everyone, including the owners of the company, were all associates BUT you always knew who wielded the power in that company also. If you
did not fit a certain mold for that company, you did not work there.
● Dear Aaron,
Ok, you pushed my button and obligated me to respond to your naive comment about actively caring. Actively caring leadership may be an oxymoron, as in ‘servant leadership,’ but to say one cannot increase such leadership is not consistent with data.
We have been researching ways to increase actively caring for more than a decade, and I can tell you it is possible to increase the behavior of actively caring for people. There is much research showing that people can behave themselves into thinking differently. In other words, if an education/training/reinforcement process increases actively caring behavior in a humanistic way, thoughts and values (promoted by self-talk) are also increased.
If you’d like to know more about our Actively Caring movement to prevent injuries in the workplace, to reduce bullying in schools and beyond, and to increase sustainability relevant behaviors, and to reduce alcohol abuse, check out www.ac4p.org
Thanks for your time and consideration,
E. Scott Geller, Ph.D.
I agree with everything you mention related to what the data says. But data does not always reflect what is truly in the minds of our very smart masters.
Data is just data and can be pushed in directions that leadership would like. Humans are sometimes a wee bit more complicated than the data can manage. I know this is your area of expertise and I apologize in advance for getting my feet wet in your river. Was not trying to push any buttons but energize the discussion a bit. Seems to have done that.
It is true, with the proper indoctrination and incentives, managers can be made to say anything that the board or other leadership wants them to say.
But that does not necessarily reflect what they are truly feeling and thinking. Many people spit out what they think upper management wants then to say and think. That still does not mean they believe it.
I have seen this time and time again with the way things work in industry. So, believe me, I am not disputing the data. I just think there are many other things that take place in the minds of people.
I watch managers who tote the corporate lines every day and as soon as they leave work are on their PDAs while driving their cars. Many companies have policies of not talking on cells or PDAs while driving on company business but if they truly believed what they were demanding their employees do everyday, they should also set the same examples (thru actions) when they are not at work.
I think we are in a place where we agree but are reading slightly different meaning in what we are each saying.
I am saying that we human beings are a little smarter than we give ourselves credit for. When we are being snowed by corporate and political doublespeak, I think that most people can see what is being attempted by these leaders.
Just because a manager talks a mean talk does not necessarily mean that they will follow through on that talk with a strong walk. Too many times we see politicians and business leaders speak whatever they think the masses want to hear. This usually comes from their handlers and attorneys. Do they actually always BELEIVE what they are speaking? That is my one and only point on this topic.
Best regards and we can agree to agree and disagree?? Maybe?
● I think the question to ask is, "Could Steve Jobs have built Apple if he had been a nice person?" (i.e., "Did he have to be a blankety-blank to do it?") I think the answer is "YES, he could have done it, and NO, he didn't have to be a blankety-blank." We tend to rationalize successful and charismatic leaders and give them way too much slack.
An excellent book on bad leaders "The No Asshole Rule," by Robert Sutton, PhD Stanford University, dispels the myth that bad leaders should be tolerated if they get the results.
Instead, Dr. Sutton shows that the price paid by others isn't worth it.
I've often wondered if Steve Job's cancer at 49 was related to his leadership style. Hopefully, Tim Cook, Steve Job's successor will be more interested in ESOH.
● While Jobs and Cook are both known for their relentlessness, they largely operate in opposite ways, The New York Times reported. Jobs is often described as mercurial and prone to outbursts, while Cook, who was raised in a small town in Alabama, is polite and soft-spoken. Whereas Jobs liked to focus on Apple’s products, Cook has largely delved into the minutiae of its operations." Ref: http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2011/08/25/new-apple-ceo-tim-cook-called-a-business-maestro/
ESOH needs to become part of the executive talk. It's not mentioned here: http://www.portfolio.com/companies-executives/2011/08/25/tim-cook-faces-leadership-challenges-as-new-apple-ceo
This recent NY Times article generates many interesting ESOH questions. I wish we could hear from a CIH/CSP from Apple. Our profession is part of the solution and maybe safety pubs like Dave's can help bring some increased transparency, increase the coverage of ESOH issues, and improve the mindset of top leaders to embrace ESOH.
Joy Erdman, MS, CIH, CSP
● Here's another recent angle supporting Dave's thesis that there's more than one road to business "success": http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/08/29/the-mystery-of-steve-jobss-public-giving/.
However, I would suggest that maybe the only real lesson is that "geniuses get cut a lot of slack," even in the business world - in his article, Sorkin, who refers to Jobs as "the da Vinci" of our time, seems almost apologetic about raising Jobs' "anti-Buffett"-like philanthropic instincts.
The 99.999 percent of us mortals (and the businesses we work for - Apple has been considered one of “America’s least philanthropic companies”) who can't claim "change the world" status should be wary of going too far against the grain!
An article I copied several weeks ago out of the local business section reported on an explosion that caused a supply interruption at an Apple contract manufacturer in China. Sadly you have to get to the second paragraph before you find that 3 people were killed and 15 injured in the explosion.
I think the article illustrates the priorities that many in the business world have developed. I don’t necessarily think it is an unique indictment of Apple, although if the event had occurred in the USA I think there would have been more public focus on the human impact versus the supply interruption.
Full disclosure: everyone in my family (including me) uses Mac’s, i-phones and i-pods.
● Dave, the business world is replete with bad bosses. This is often why Safety Pros leave companies. The scenario is that they get hired by a great CEO. A few years later, that CEO leaves and gets replaced by what seems to be Satan incarnate. Safety Pros exit stage right.
Jobs uses a management method that works for him and Apple, but personally I would never take the job with a CEO as you described him as narcissist and manipulative. The money wouldn’t matter if I had to work in a hellish environment.
If Safety Pros do continue to work in these environments, it is purely their choice. For me, life is too short for that nonsense. I found a list of the top 10 bosses from hell. See below. They performed well but the work environment left much to be desired.
Bosses from Hell
By: Fast Company Staff (July 1, 2005)
A rogue's gallery of the manipulative, abusive, grandiose -- and downright crooked -- executives who have strutted their way across the stage of American business.
John D. Rockefeller
So self-righteous that he claimed, "God gave me my money." The most corrupt mogul of the most corrupt era, he masterminded a grand, cruel conspiracy in 1871 with the railroads to double the price of transporting oil for all producers except his cartel.
Henry Clay Frick
On July 6, 1892, Frick's private militia of 300 Pinkertons fired on a crowd of striking steelworkers and their families. Then he had them evicted from company-owned houses, blacklisted, and tried for murder.
Ford used shadowy henchmen to run "secret police" who spied on employees. He had machine guns, tear gas, and a private army at the ready to deter union organizers. He cheated on his wife with his teenage personal assistant and then had the younger woman marry his chauffeur as a cover.
The man behind the Mouse was a suspicious control freak -- a dictatorial boss who underpaid his workers, clashed with labor organizing efforts, made anti-Semitic smears about the other Hollywood studio heads, and wouldn't give due recognition to Mickey's real creator, animator Ub Iwerks, who was supposedly his oldest friend. He also spied prodigiously for J. Edgar Hoover and cooperated with Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1960s.
Bribed his way through the oil business. Laundered money for Soviet spies. Forced his mistress to alter the way she looked to throw off his wife. Reneged on promises to support his illegitimate daughter. Forced his board members to give him signed resignation letters that he could accept if they ever dared to oppose him. Then promoted himself for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Perhaps history's most dictatorial accountant, Geneen ran the huge ITT in the 1960s and 1970s. His method: publicly humiliating his top 120 executives every month at grueling, four-day, 14-hour-long meetings that made some of them physically ill. Geneen liked to see the pained expressions on their faces as he tore into them.
People thought Gulf & Western was predatory and acquisitive under Charles Bluhdorn, who earned it the nickname "Engulf & Devour." But when his tough-as-nails protege Davis ascended to the top position, a visitor asked why half of the offices were empty on the top floor of the company's Manhattan skyscraper. "Those were my enemies," Davis said. "I got rid of them."
Scorching and short-tempered, Dick "Nice Guys Finish Last" Snyder ran Simon & Schuster beginning in the 1970s, when the office joke was: What's the difference between the Ayatollah Khomeini and Dick Snyder? Answer: the Iranian mullah took only 52 hostages, while Snyder had 700 -- the number of employees at the book publisher.
Scroogelike employer who routinely screamed at his staffers and made them all work the Friday after Thanksgiving, when he called many times to make sure they were still at the office. Proclaimed "Greed is healthy" in a 1986 commencement address at UC Berkeley, the inspiration for the Gordon Gekko speech in the movie “Wall Street.” Served prison time for securities fraud but reemerged as a tanned La Jolla beach dude -- and never said he was sorry.
Her most brilliant business move was having an affair with elderly real-estate baron Harry Helmsley, whom she conned into leaving his wife of 33 years by buying herself an engagement ring -- then telling him it was from a rival. Running his hotel empire, she became the "Queen of Mean" to the hundreds of employees she berated and fired on the spot, allegedly for things like a misaligned lampshade. Convinced that taxes were for the "little people," she wound up in prison for evasion.
As CEO of Sunbeam during the late 1990s, Dunlap charged a bulletproof vest and a handgun to his expense account -- understandable given the delight he took in laying off thousands of workers and subjecting his executives to profane, abusive tirades. He threw a chair across the room at his head of human resources, allegedly threatened his first wife with guns and knives, and failed to attend the funerals of either of his parents.
Fastow could be so hot-headed that he once got into a punch-out with a taxi driver over 70 cents. Pocket change indeed compared to the $24 million of illicit gains the Enron CFO agreed to give back when he pleaded guilty to securities fraud -- or the billions of dollars lost by shareholders when his secret schemes ultimately triggered the company's collapse.