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Leading Apple With Steve Jobs: Management Lessons From a Controversial Genius by Jay Elliot

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Choosing People Who Can Adapt to the Style of the Leader

In time, I learned a lesson about dealing with Steve when he was harsh, angry, or abusive over a decision or suggestion made or some work presented. My insight came through the experience of an executive on the Mac team. To protect his reputation, I’ll call him Don Vincent.

Steve was looking for someone to lead the creation of the multimillion-dollar Mac factory, and the search led to Don, who was then working at Hewlett-Packard and had a lot of solid recommendations. Once Don started working for Apple, it became clear he was not really an entrepreneur at heart and, even worse, he had a very thin skin—not a good quality in someone working for Steve Jobs.

For example, on one meeting where Don was making a presentation about the factory robots, Steve was very unhappy with the selections Don was presenting. He bounded out of his chair and started waving his hands like a robot, carrying on in something of a frenzy. At one point he demanded, “Don, if you were a robot, what color would you want to be!?”

No one in the history of manufacturing had ever been asked to deal with the feelings of a robot! Don was dumbfounded by the question and very embarrassed in front of the staff. He had no response to offer. Instead of pushing back, he took the criticism personally. He got up and left the room.

After the meeting, I told Steve, “You need to be careful in how you talk to a sensitive person like Don, particularly putting him down in ...

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