On Saturday I bumped into a few of my book club buddies from my last job. We had a good time catching up on books and other things. One of the books we read back in the day was Walter Issacson's Steve Jobs biography. I loved the book but really came to hate Jobs by the end. I remember being one of the most vigilant Jobs haters when we discussed that book. Heh, not the first time I was the contrarian in that group.
Later on the same day I had a chance to watch a free movie and chose Get On Up, the 2013 James Brown biopic. He was a pioneering musician and amazing performer. And a hateful person.
The parallels between the two famous individuals were amazing to me.
All work and no play -- Jobs consistently neglected his children and family. Brown was physically abusive towards women.
Uncompromising visions -- Jobs fought the industry's best minds, insisting that tightly integrated hardware and software was the best strategy. Brown ...
My way or the highway -- Brown was an iron-fisted dictator over his band, imposing fines for dress code violations and missed notes. Jobs was a draconian tyrant at work, firing people for disagreeing with him and acting like a boor at most every meeting.
Never stop tweaking -- Brown was a perfectionist. He knew exactly what he wanted and made enduringly great music by tightly controlling how everyone played together. Jobs was a perfectionist, controlling every aspect of design and build, down to the decor of the manufacturing facilities.
It's well-known that many geniuses suffer from depression, have psychopathic tendencies and live difficult lives. We can see some of these elements in both Steve Jobs and James Brown.
It's good to recognize these patterns; understanding is always beneficial. But it's not ok to celebrate it in my opinion. Not every CEO is a jerk and not every genius treats people poorly. Those who have these failings need to work to get better. Their amazing accomplishments doesn't mean others should turn a blind eye to their rude (and criminal) behavior.
As my old book club mates and I continued to chat, another coincidence came to light. We are both reading the same book right now (Thinking Fast and Slow). I have secured an invitation to their next meeting so I can enjoy the discussion. However it goes I predict I will feel good.