Two people have been on my mind lately. Steve Jobs and Michael Jackson. I was thinking about Steve and Michael because both have significantly impacted the world we live in. Many people idolize these two men for their accomplishments and contributions to society. Yet… could they have done better? I ask this question because they both lack a key leadership quality that I promote. In every leadership class I teach, I always ask the question…
Does the end justify the means?
Can you justify treating people badly, just because you achieved success? We cannot argue that both Steve and Michael were successful in their careers. But how have they treated others? Apparently Michael’s entourage constantly changed. His inner circle was never the same from year to year. He fired people constantly and would rarely listen to people he hired to help him manage his affairs.
Steve has been known for calling people “brain dead” and has been criticized for his aggressive leadership style. Warren Bennis recently commented in the Washington Post column On Leadership that Steve’s management style is hurting Apple. There were several rebuttals, but the question remains a good one. Does it matter how you treat people, if you are successful?
I’ve never met Michael or Steve, and hesistate to armchair quarterback. But let me ask the question this way… others have behaved in the same manner but because they were not successful, we chastise them for cussing in meetings and berating people. We then label them poor leaders. Why? Weren’t they doing the same things as Michael and Steve? Why is bad behavior ok in certain situations, and not in others?
While Michael and Steve achieved success, could they have accomplished the same things if they had treated people with a little more respect? I realize this is a rhetorical question, but it is an important one if we are trying to develop leaders with character and integrity. Just because Steve and Michael were successful, I don’t think this justifies insulting people – even if they were incapable of doing their jobs correctly.
I am not advocating being “nice”. I am promoting treating people with dignity. You can fire someone for poor performance, without calling them stupid, dumb, or brain dead. We can listen to others and not take their advice, but don’t need to fire them just because they offer different perspectives.
While Apple is successful today, I think only time will tell if Steve’s leadership style was really beneficial to Apple in the long term. As for Michael, he left his legacy. For those of us who saw him rise to stardom, he became an icon. But as my 18 year daughter Michele told me the other day, she only knew him as the weird pedophile.
Lead With Honor!
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- Steve Jobs and the Great Man Theory of Leadership (2-speed.com)