Big Jerks as Great Visionaries? Or Vice-Versa?
As I was reading Tony Schwartz's recent article, "The Bad Behavior of Visionary Leaders" (NYT, June 26, 2015), I finally understood why visionaries like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk can be so "unnecessarily cruel and demeaning . . . to the people who helped make their dreams come true." Schwartz helped me see why:
I would argue that most of the bad behavior of these men is fear-based, impulsive and reactive rather than consciously hurtful. It grows not out of a sense of superiority but rather of insecurity.Still, why the insecurity? They're geniuses. The insecurity comes from the fact that those around them are not all geniuses. Schwartz tells us:
I know well the anxious feeling that can arise when a deal is coming undone, a project isn't gelling or an employee seems to be falling short. I know how frightening it can be to feel out of control . . . . Each of [these three visionaries] . . . was far more likely to act out suddenly and behave poorly when he wasn't getting exactly what he wanted - when he felt that others were failing to live up to his standards.I finally understood. Great visionaries make great demands. Insanely great demands. They do so for their visions, and if they see their vision fading because of some employee failing to perform in an insanely great fashion, they lose control in trying to maintain control.
I can see how that happens. I understand . . . and I learn something new every day.