In the weeks since his death, Jobs has been compared to Einstein and Edison. Maybe so. But the problem with using his interpersonal style as a management role model is that the rest of us, to parrot Apple advertising, will assuredly blow it. In business, the control freak boss—the emblematic Jobs model—is a recipe for unintentionally delivering your best employees as new hires to your closest competitors.
Millions of people have to manage others, and this challenge doesn’t necessarily bring out the best in us. A 2005 article by two psychologists from the University of Surrey, “Disordered Personalities at Work,” found that senior British executives were more likely to demonstrate histrionic personality disorder (grandiosity and lack of empathy among other traits) than criminal psychiatric patients at Broadmoor Special Hospital in Berkshire, England, and they were equally likely to show narcissistic (perfectionism and a dictatorial bent) and compulsive tendencies. Is it that this type of person is attracted to the job or the workplace encourages this type of behavior? Who knows? But entreating subordinates to “insanely great” levels of performance, to quote Jobs’s hyperbolic rhetoric, is more likely to initiate a collective bargaining drive than produce the next iPad.