At the heart of the enigma of Steve Jobs lies a riddle about authority. On the one hand, Jobs was an intrinsically anti-authoritarian figure whose life was a litany of rebellions against every kind of convention. On the other hand, however, Jobs often seemed to run Apple like a personal fiefdom, shaping products and strategy according to his own whims and instincts.
So, I asked Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacson when he came into the TechCrunchTV studio earlier this week, was Steve Jobs a tyrannical leader?
Isaacson, whose best-selling biography explores this riddle in some detail, told me that Steve was “more collaborative than he is given credit for.” Like other authoritarian personalities, Isaacson explained, the best way to bring out Steve’s democratic instincts was to scream at him. When you resisted him, Issacson told me, you got promoted. And if you didn’t, perhaps he implied, you got fired.
This is the penultimate excerpt of my interview with Isaacson. On Monday, he talks about where he sees Apple going in a post Steve Jobs future. Yesterday, he talked to me about Jobs’ historic significance.