With the success of the iPod, Apple
So who is the man behind the black turtleneck? Is he an egomaniacal executive or a misunderstood maverick? Has success -- and older age -- mellowed the Apple co-founder? Alan Deutschman is the author of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs and the recently published Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life. I recently asked Deutschman about the business of Apple and the business of Steve Jobs.
Deutschman's book on Steve Jobs was published in October 2000, long before Apple's breakout success with the iPod. Deutschman said that when it comes to media access, the new Jobs is not quite the same as the old Jobs.
Alan Deutschman: I began covering Steve Jobs during the low points of his career, when I interviewed him and wrote about him. Since he has been back on top of the world, he gives extremely limited access to any reporter -- usually when he has an exciting new product that he wants to promote, like he does now with the iPhone.
Mac Greer: Is Steve Jobs the type of guy that I would want to have a beer with, or would I be afraid if I were having a beer with him?
Alan Deutschman: Well, it depends on the situation. Steve Jobs can be one of the most charming, charismatic, seductive, hypnotic people you have ever met. He makes this incredible eye contact and he just kind of locks into your eyes, and he uses your first name repeatedly, and he just talks with such an infectious enthusiasm and passion ...
Mac Greer: And did it work, Alan?
Alan Deutschman: And it works. It is hypnotic. People who have known him and worked with him -- men and women -- talk about it as being seductive, but that is when he wants to charm you, when he wants to persuade you. Steve Jobs can also be verbally abusive and psychologically manipulative to his employees, his colleagues, his friends. In his companies, for many years, they have talked about the seduce-and-abandon mode -- Steve will seduce you and he will attract incredibly talented people to come work with him by telling them that they are the most brilliant, they are the best, they have to come work with him and change the world. And once they are working with him, he will start saying abusive things about how their work sucks. And it is all part of a psychology that gets very talented people to work with him and then makes them very insecure and makes them work incredibly hard to try to gain back his love and approval, so it has managed to get great minds to come to the fold and then to work maniacally towards his goals.
Mac Greer: And yet, I also know that you have said in our previous conversations that Steve Jobs really respects strong personalities, people who will stand up to him.
Alan Deutschman: That is right. When he was 21 years old, Steve Jobs was a home electronics hobbyist, and when he got into the technology world, he wasn't a Ph. D. from Cal Tech, and he has had to wrestle with some very difficult technology issues and business issues over the years.
He has developed a really deep understanding of technology and business, but still, these are complicated, difficult issues. And Steve Jobs throughout his career will often challenge the people who work with him, and he will be very critical of them and their ideas, and he likes to see that they are willing to stand up for what they are saying. The strength and forcefulness and passion of their own beliefs are very persuasive to Steve Jobs. It is one of his ways of knowing that they feel strongly about something and have conviction in it and it has always been a big part of his decision making. Sometimes it is hard with the people who work with him, but if you stand up to Steve Jobs and if you forcefully articulate your viewpoints, he really respects that.
Mac Greer: In the book, you note that not only are most of us reluctant to change, but most of us refuse to change even when the consequences are dire. The head of Johns Hopkins Medical School says that 90% of heart patients with their lives depending on it still refuse to change. It piqued my curiosity as to whether Jobs had changed over the years. Do you get the sense that a guy like Jobs is softening up a bit, that he is changing? Or does all the success that he has experienced recently work against that?
Alan Deutschman: You know, when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, Apple's publicists tried to put out the word that Steve had mellowed. He was older now -- his second time around at Apple -- he was a father, he didn't have as much hair, he was still slender but now clearly middle-aged, and they tried to put out the word that Steve had mellowed. But if he has really mellowed, then how come Apple sues anyone who leaks even small details about their future product releases, even if they are an 18-year-old college student? If he has really mellowed, then how come when the book Icon was published last year, Steve enacted a vendetta against the book and tried to have it removed from stores? There are a lot of signs that he hasn't mellowed. Plus the guy has been a billionaire since the late 1990s from the Pixar initial public offering, and he has had a near-death experience ...
Mac Greer: With cancer, right?
Alan Deutschman: With cancer. He is not 21 anymore, and yet he is constantly making all these deals for Hollywood and the cell phone companies, and I see no sign whatsoever that Steve has mellowed. I think he is still maniacally focused on being one of the leaders of the digital revolution that he helped start 30 years ago.
Mac Greer: And I can only imagine what those early days of Apple were like, and battling firms like IBM
Alan Deutschman: Yeah. The two Steves are very different personalities, and yeah, I don't see Steve Jobs having inner peace. I have asked some of his oldest friends who knew him back in high school and college about the influence of Zen Buddhism in his life, because since he has been a teenager, he has been very interested in Buddhism and he has had a close relationship with a Zen master and such, but the man is a workaholic and a control freak.
Mac Greer: It seems like a more aggressive form of Zen Buddhism. (Laughs.)
Alan Deutschman: Yeah, and they have told me, they are like, "Well you know, imagine what he might have been like if he hadn't been involved with Buddhism."
You've heard Alan Deutschman's thoughts on Steve Jobs. Want to share your thoughts on Jobs and Apple? You can do so right now, in Motley Fool CAPS, where Apple carries a mediocre two-star rating.
Mac Greer does not own any shares of Apple. He enjoys watching Apple's Mac vs. PC commercials but finds the PC guy much more likeable than the Apple guy, who seems a bit too cool for school. Microsoft is an Inside Value recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.