Anyone who has spent time in the working world has run into difficult people. It’s inevitable. (The same applies to families and just about any group you can imagine.) When the difficult person is your boss, the complexities of dealing with that person rise tremendously. After all, he or she is your boss – holds the cards, has influence over your career, and can make your daily life miserable.
Interviews with team members and employees that worked with (and for) Steve Jobs inevitably mention that he was difficult. They mention impossible schedules, impossible requirements, and (of course) yelling and ranting.
By all accounts, Jobs was maniacally focused on his vision to change the world. But even as these employees discuss how difficult Jobs was to work for, they say it with reverence – as if they would have had it no other way. That was the man, and the way you worked with the man.
Many of you reading this will have a story about a difficult (or even impossible) boss. I have my own stories. Many of us would argue (as Robert Sutton does in The No Asshole Rule) that these bosses should be fired.
But is that always true? Is it possible that there is a place in the business world for difficult bosses? Is it possible that the best bosses need a little bit of crazy to be successful? Is it maybe even necessary to break (almost) all the rules when you are striving to create something entirely new? Is there some quality (perhaps it’s the visionary brilliance) that tempers the difficult behaviors, making an otherwise unacceptable boss okay?
Or, is it possible that Jobs could have been just as effective a boss, without employing the tactics that have branded him as difficult to work for? What do you think?