We‘re in a screwed up world. We‘ve evolved from our old savage nature. You don‘t find people biting each other in the street anymore. You seldom fight people beating others in public places. We‘ve evolved. Yet, some things have not changed, even if we try to convince ourselves that‘s not true. You‘re taught in school that the perfect boss is the one that is not strict. You understand that high performance management is correlated to being a helpful peaceful boss. The perfect manager is one who aids their team in rising together.
ABC of entrepreneurship, no?
I‘m Al Anany, a 10 year entrepreneurship consultant in Zurich, Switzerland. I‘ve worked with hundreds of startups that raised investments of over $100m.
This analytical piece is to prove that this “ABC of entrepreneurship“ is false. In theory, being nice is common sense that should lead to a better working environment.
In practice though, the jerk bosses are the ones that are topping the Fortune 500 charts. I only realized this after reading the autobiographies of people like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs.
Some are exceptions. Others I don‘t consider managers like Warren Buffet (he‘s more of an investor.)
Here‘s a visual version of this article, if you‘re interested in watching it. Additionally, you can read the written version below.
Elon Musk — Inhuman High Performance Management.
I‘m not sure if you‘re aware of this. But the sentence above is extremely factual that it is mentioned multiple times throughout his autobiography.
Let‘s make one thing clear. He‘s a very successful manager. Yet, he‘s far from nice. Actually, he‘s quite brutal when you take him as an example. Before digging into some examples from the past and reference articles, here‘s a picture of him carrying a toilet sink.
When he has a problem, like Twitter‘s toilet budget, he gets his hands dirty and resolves it. That‘s what makes him one of the most successful entrepreneurs. Let me say that differently.
When he has a problem, like Twitter‘s number of employees, he gets his hands dirty and fires them in a couple of days. It does not matter whether these people rely on Twitter‘s salary to live and feed their children. A business is a business. If you are not needed, then you need to vanish.
Now that you‘re starting to get a sense of what I mean by brutal, let‘s get into some other examples.
So when I started reading about his story, there was a person who was sort of a co-star to his story. That‘s Mary Beth Brown, his assistant.
She worked with him for 12 years, then asked for a raise. Can you blame her?
He then told her to go on a “vacation“ to assess whether he can do her job, and then figured out that she was expendable. He understood that her job was no longer a necessity. Some reports online says he fired her. However, if I remember correctly from his autobiography, he just offered her another similar job with the same salary, which led to her quitting (Either that or he just fired her, I don‘t quite remember. Forgive me, I am human, not ChatGPT.)
Contrary to many online articles, I don‘t deem Elon evil. I admire his story. He‘s certainly one of the most inspiring CEOs of our time. Yet, I wouldn‘t work for him as some work situations require human emotions, which I can‘t guarantee Musk would be able to give.
I‘m specifically very spoiled in my business life. If I did have a job at Tesla, I randomly just not feel like working in the morning because, “I don‘t feel like it.“
Imagine if I said that to Musk, phew.
Steve Jobs — Jerk High Performance Management.
You could just watch any of his movies to be able to get a feel of how brutal he was. Yet, he achieved greatness. He would have his “reality distortion field“ where he wouldn‘t care what you say if it‘s not fitting what he believes in.
He would constantly have an “A-performing team“ and a “B“ and “C“ ones. He‘d treat the A-performers differently compared to the others. He knows that they will be the reason why Apple is the most valued company in the world.
One of the most famous stories is when he refused to give stock options to Apple‘s employee #1 Daniel Kottke. His cofounder, Steve Wozniak, offered around $10 million of his stock options to early Apple employees when Jobs refused to do so.
You‘d think that you‘d let aside any differences you had for one of the people who believed in your company from day 1. To be honest, there are more personal aspects to this story between Jobs and Kottke. However, Jobs only looked towards what‘s good for his company.
Again, when I read the tale of Steve Jobs, I realized he was one of the most brilliant minds of our time. However, similar to Musk, I‘d strongly pass on working under him. It just doesn‘t sound healthy.
Jerk is the common factor.
- Zuck spilled water at an employees computer and called his product, “Shit“
- Gates decreased Paul Allen‘s shares of Microsoft while he had Hodgkin’s disease.
- Tim Cook left some employees in tears after meetings.
- Bezos once told an employee, “I’m sorry, did I take my stupid pills today?”
I could keep staring more and more examples. But the point is that in our day, being nice has nothing to do with business success. In fact, being brutal and harsh is what defines most of the famous CEOs.
I personally do not believe so. Yes, top CEOs are sometimes jerks. But what about average companies? The only way I could confirm on the above statement is if we conduct a nationwide survey and study to understand this.
What are a few top CEOs in the world of business? They‘re just a few bricks of a building in a populated town.
Meet The Author Of This Article
I’m Al Anany, founder and CEO of this startup, Albusi.
When I write, I try to think of the unthinkable in the business world. That‘s the only way towards moving forward.