Personality At Work, by Ron Warren ISBN 9781259860355
Five out of five stars
For much of the book, Warren concentrates on the outsize personality of the late Steve Jobs and to a lesser extent, largely as a comparison, his original partner Steve Wozniak. It is a classic case of concentrating on an extreme case to make a point about the more general situations. What I like about Warren’s approach is that he does not overly glorify Jobs, he presents him in a realistic light as a man that at one point failed miserably yet was able to learn and adapt enough to be successful in the long run. But only because in his last years he had people that acted to keep him under control.
The book opens with a brief history of the early years of Apple and the contrasting personalities of Jobs and Wozniak. Despite and because their strengths complemented each other so well, they were able to make and market a completely new product that made both tens of millions of dollars. Never one to be comfortable in the spotlight, Wozniak left the company to teach in the public schools and be a role model for successful people giving back to the community. Jobs continued to drive people via browbeating, yelling, insulting and generally being a poster boy for a bad boss.
Unfortunately, many executives used Jobs as a role model, mimicking his nasty approach to people. Yet, as Bill Gates famously said regarding people following the Jobs model, “These people have the a-hole part down, but not the genius.” Using this as the explanatory premise, Warren describes situations where cooperation is the only path to successful completion of complex tasks.
His description of the successful landing of Quantas Flight 32 after an engine literally exploded early in the flight is riveting reading and should be required reading for all “pilots” that may be forced to steer through crises. It is a demonstration of how teamwork and relying on human expertise caused what could have been a doomed airliner to land safely with no casualties.
This book should be required reading in all MBA programs, for Warren demonstrates using simple, circular graphs what traits in the proper mix can turn most people into successful executives. From the timid, otherwise very competent person, to the arrogant, over puffed and unyielding strutter, all can learn to move in the right direction, which is towards greater success. He also describes with explanation the person considered the worst CEO of all time.
In many ways the formula for the success of a CEO can be summed up in the single line, “Pass the credit and take the blame.”