Let’s talk about Steve Jobs. I think enough time has gone by since his passing that we can move beyond the mystique and be brutally honest. What Jobs teaches us, on a fundamental level, is that to be successful in the twenty-first century,
an individual should (among other, more positive things):
- Steal ideas from the true innovators and repackage them as your own.
- Be a self-promoter.
- Brutalize and belittle one’s underlings.
- Use cut-throat, callous tactics to discredit your competitors.
- Use spin and manipulation in order to turn a profit.
- Accumulate and horde wealth.
- Place ‘leaving a legacy’ above your personal relationships and friendships.
- Don’t be squeamish about environmental and labour abuses.
- Don’t be too averse to lying, cheating and swindling.
- Surround yourself with good people who make you look good by association. (The Wozniak factor.)
I’m sure that if I bothered, I would find a cesspool of self-help titles on what leaders like Steve Jobs teach us about success. No doubt, if you cherry-pick carefully enough, there are big lessons future leaders can learn about the value of innovation and doing things differently. But you cannot ignore the outright cruelty and egotism underlying this success.
Now, we have a whole generation aspiring to be like Steve Jobs. For them, he is the embodiment of success. And Jobs’* creativity, determination and insight are fantastic traits for them to aspire to. Unfortunately, what it also means is that the negative traits listed previously are smuggled into their conception of what it takes to ‘make it’. If Steve Jobs did it, I can imagine them saying, then surely it’s okay.
Now imagine a whole new generation of leaders in business and government who intentionally place profits above people, who respond brutally to criticism, who get what they want even if they have to take it by force, who think dishonesty and cruelty are just the way things are done, who think that nature is an unlimited treasure trove that needs to be plundered and who think that acquiring a ridiculous level of wealth is the way to happiness and fulfillment. A new world where conscious and kindness have no place.
Oh, hang on. That’s already happened.
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