Note: The review that follows is of the Expanded Edition
In my review of an earlier edition, I observed that, paradoxically, Steve Jobs continues to be one of the best known and yet least understood CEOs in recent business history. It is probably true that most of those who once worked or who now work at Apple Computer will learn more about Jobs as they read Leander Kahney's book and the subsequent Expanded Edition than they knew previously. For years, they and others shared the opinions expressed in this brief excerpt from the Introduction:
"Jobs is a control extraordinaire. He's also a perfectionist, an elitist, and a taskmaster to employees. By most accounts, Jobs is a borderline loony. He is portrayed as a basket case who fires people in elevators, manipulates partners, and takes credit for others' achievements. [Alan Deutschman, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, Pages 59, 197, 239, 243, 254, 294-95 and Jeffrey S. Young, icon: Steve Jobs, The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business, Pages 212, 213, and 254]. Recent biographies paint an unflattering portrait of a sociopath motivated by the basest desires - to control, to abuse, to dominate. Most books about Jobs are depressing reads. They're dismissive, little more than catalogs of tantrums and abuse. No wonder he's called them `hatchet jobs.' Where's the genius?" All or at least some of this is may be true and yet....
He is a "control freak" and yet "throughout his career, Jobs has struck up a long string of productive partnerships - both personal and corporate. Jobs's success has depended on attracting great people to do great work for him. He's always chosen great collaborators [as well as] "forged (mostly) harmonious relationships with some of the world's top brands - Disney, Pepsi, and the big record labels." Kahney also points out that "through judicious use of both the carrot and the stick, Jobs has managed to retain and motivate lots of top-shelf talent...and then given them the freedom to be creative and shielded them from the growing bureaucracy at Apple." As Jobs sees it, "My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay."
In this Expanded Edition, Kahney provides a new chapter devoted entirely to issues concerning Jobs's battle with pancreatic cancer. In a rare memo to the entire company, on August 1, 2004, he offered a number if reassurances, notably that the neuroendocrine or islet-cell tumor is curable by surgery if diagnosed in time, that the operation had already occurred, and that there was no need for follow-up radiation or chemotherapy treatments. All seemed to go well for the next two years and then, at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, Jobs appeared frail, indeed "emaciated" despite claims to the contrary by Apple spokespersons that his health was "robust." Only much later did he admit that his health-related issues were much more serious than previously indicated. What Kahney has to say about subsequent developments is best revealed within the narrative, in context, such as the increasingly more important role that Apple's COO, Tim Cook, has in the company, although Jobs continued as CEO.
During his research for the first edition of this book, Kahney was struck by Jobs's apparent preoccupation with death, indicated by how many times he mentioned it as the driving force in his life. In a commencement speech to the graduating class at Stanford in 2005, he observed, "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." This perspective helps to explain why Jobs has always been so impatient, so demanding, and so contemptuous of anything and anyone that is not "insanely great."
Obviously, the Apple culture has been an extension of Jobs's personality and style. To me, his brain resembles a minefield, a lush garden filled with beautiful flowers and plants, a fireworks display, a demolition derby, a six-year old's birthday party, a torture chamber, a vast green meadow, a shooting gallery, and a state fair. When he was in good health and centrally involved, it was never dull. With Jobs, nothing ever is. Although there is other new material in this book, Chapter 9 (what is now the concluding chapter) will probably be of greatest interest to those who ask, "What will happen to Apple after Steve Jobs is no longer involved?" No matter what happens, it does seem certain that an Apple without him will be different and perhaps he would be disappointed if it weren't.