Wunderkind. Jerk. Innovator. Tyrant. (All of the above.) Even now, almost four years after his death, it’s hard to read a story about Steve Jobs that doesn’t rely on these kinds of generic labels to explain his character, that doesn’t paint him as an obstreperous ingrate who never changed, who cowed coworkers and competitors with an almost magical “reality distortion field.”
It’s a strange phenomenon, given the extraordinary story of his life: A callow businessman, a young college dropout whose behavior was so divisive and undisciplined that he was exiled in 1985 from the company he founded, turns around and becomes the radically effective visionary leader of a company that became the most valuable enterprise on earth. Surely this can’t be explained by a set of stereotypes that haven’t changed for three decades.
Three years ago, fellow journalist Brent Schlender and I set out to try to take the long view of Jobs’s career. I had worked behind the scenes as an editor on many Apple stories for both Fast Company and Fortune. Brent knew Steve well. For more than two decades, he reported on him for The Wall Street Journal and Fortune, interviewing him dozens of times. The two became close, albeit within the bounds of a journalist/source relationship; Steve regularly introduced Brent as his “friend.” Brent believed that Jobs had changed more than any other businessman he had covered. [Read more from Fast Company]