How Much EQ Does Steve Jobs Really Have? (Part 1)

Last Updated Nov 23, 2009 12:38 AM EST

What kicked off this blog was a excellent article by Fiona Smith in the Australian Financial Review (16 November 2009): The downside of being nice.
The thrust of the article was that while every management book in recent years has stressed the importance of workplace harmony, there is a counter argument personified by Steve Jobs. Fiona quotes how Bob Sutton describes Steve Jobs as the successful archetypal asshole in his book The No Asshole Rule. I then went on to google Bob Sutton+Steve Jobs and got this great post.

Also I discovered that Bob Sutton was the same Robert Sutton who is a co-author with Jeffery Pfeffer who I have already blogged about.
Closing the circle got me thinking how much EQ does Steve Jobs really have?

In the late 1980s I read Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple : A Journey of Adventure, Ideas, and the Future by John Scully. The part I really remember was how Steve Jobs recruited Scully to be CEO of Apple. After several meetings Scully and Jobs went and spent several hours looking at paintings at MOMA. According to Scully no work was discussed except right at the end when Jobs turned to Scully and said: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?" If EQ consists of being able to both analyse someone's core emotions and then gain their co-operation through this knowledge, one could only conclude that the EQ of Jobs is very high indeed. It was a perfect pitch.

In the book Scully goes on to describe how he orchestrated Jobs' firing after a power struggle in 1985. And in his memoir, Sculley dismissed Jobs' vision for the company. "Apple was supposed to become a wonderful consumer products company," Sculley wrote. "This was a lunatic plan. High tech could not be designed and sold as a consumer product." As so often occurs with predictions, 100% wrong. Jobs returned to Apple in 1997. The company was on its knees. He then went on to launch two of the most successful hi-tech consumer products ever: the ipod and the iphone. Fortune Magazine in its 23 November 2009 edition has just named him the CEO of the Decade. So what does make Steve Jobs tick?

Part of the answer can be found in this long and carefully researched article: The Trouble With Steve Jobs.
Two quotes stand out. This by a former employee:

Often Jobs would suddenly "flip," taking an idea that he'd mocked (maybe your idea) and embracing it passionately --- and as his own --- without ever acknowledging that his view had changed. "He has this ability to change his mind and completely forget his old opinion about something," says a former close colleague who asked not to be named. "It's weird. He can say, 'I love white; white is the best.' And then three months later say, 'Black is the best; white is not the best.' He doesn't live with his mistake. It evaporates." Jobs would rationalise it all by simply explaining, "We're doing what's right today."

The other was by Apple director Levinson, describing the time when Jobs discovered he had pancreatic cancer in October 2003. For nine months he tried alternative treatments before finally submitting to successful surgery. Of course this was a major issue for the Apple Board, knowing the news would cause a major drop in the share price. Levinson and another director, Bill Campbell, tried to persuade Jobs to have the surgery. "There was genuine concern on the part of several board members that he may not have been doing the best thing for his health," says one insider. "But Steve is Steve. He can be pretty stubborn."

How do you reconcile flexibility and stubbornness in one personality? Does this help or hinder your level of emotional intelligence. I will try an answer this question in my next post.