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Jobs abrasive style drove some people away: biographer

By Reuters
Monday, October 24, 2011 7:43 EDT
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(Reuters) – Apple Inc co-founder Steve Jobs revolutionized multiple industries with his cutting-edge products but he was not the world’s best manager, biographer Walter Isaacson said.

Jobs changed the course of personal computing during two stints atApple and then brought a revolution to the mobile market but the inspiring genius is known for his hard edges that have often times alienated colleagues and early investors with his my-way-or-the-highway dictums.

“He’s not warm and fuzzy,” Isaacson said in an interview with “60 Minutes” on CBS on Sunday. “He was not the world’s greatest manager. In fact, he could have been one of the world’s worst managers.”

“He could be very, very mean to people at times,” he added.

Jobs loved to argue but not everyone around him shared that passion, which drove some of his top people away. While his style had yielded breakthrough products, it didn’t make for “great management style,” Isaacson said.

In one of the more than 40 interviews that Jobs gave the biographer, the technology icon said he felt totally comfortable being brutally honest.

“That’s the ante for being in the room. So we’re brutally honest with each other and all of them can tell me they think I’m full of s**t, and I can tell anyone I think they’re full of s**t,” Jobs said. “And we’ve had some rip-roaring arguments where we’re yelling at each other.”

Isaacson’s biography “Steve Jobs,” which hits bookstores on Monday, reveals that Jobs refused potentially life-saving cancer surgery for nine months, was bullied in school, tried various quirky diets as a teenager, and exhibited early strange behavior such as staring at others without blinking.

The book is expected to paint an unprecedented, no-holds-barred portrait of a man who famously guarded his privacy fiercely but whose death ignited a global outpouring of grief and tribute.

Isaacson said in the interview that the reality distortion theory that had always been associated with Jobs stemmed from the Apple co-founder’s belief that he was special and that the rules didn’t apply to him.

‘MAGICAL THINKING’

“He could drive himself by magical thinking,” Isaacson said. “By believing something that the rest of us couldn’t possibly believe, and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.”

Jobs, who has revolutionized the world of personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet, digital publishing and retail stores, would have liked to conquer television as well, Isaacson said.

“He had a few other visions. He would love to make an easy-to-use television set,” said Isaacson, speaking of Job’s last two-and-a-half years of life. “But he started focusing on his family again as well. And it was a painful brutal struggle. And he would talk, often to me about the pain.”

Jobs, in his final meeting with Isaacson in mid-August, still held out hope that there might be one new drug that could save him. He also wanted to believe in God and an afterlife.

“Ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about (God) more. And I find myself believing a bit more. Maybe it’s because I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear,” Isaacson quoted Jobs as saying.

“Then he paused for a second and he said ‘yeah, but sometimes I think it’s just like an on-off switch. Click and you’re gone,” Isaacson said of Jobs. “He paused again, and he said: And that’s why I don’t like putting on-off switches on Apple devices.”

(Editing by Anshuman Daga)

Reuters
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