Most well-known as the co-founder of Apple, billionaire Steve Jobs had many far-reaching accomplishments and achievements under his belt. Although he died in 2011, he remains a symbol of innovation, drive, charisma and success – but also one of aggression and, some would say, tyranny. While he was a man of obvious importance, we have to ask ourselves: What kind of overall legacy did Jobs leave behind?
Here are three reasons why he may not have been the best source of inspiration for a new generation, and three reasons to follow in his footsteps.
Not the Jobs you’d hoped for
Most consumers would agree that the ends don’t justify the means if a child is being harmed in the making of a product. Yet, by its own admission, Apple regularly employed teenagers and children below the age of 16 in their factories in China in 2010. These children, among other Chinese employees, worked in sweatshop-like conditions; they were paid terribly low wages, forced to work fifteen-hour shifts, had no access to air conditioning and constantly endured bug infestations – all so they could create Apple phones and computers. It’s no wonder that 11 workers committed suicide that year. While seemingly responsive to the suicides, Jobs denied the existence of the factories’ poor working conditions. However, since Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple in 2011, the company has become much more socially responsible – putting Jobs at the root of the corporation’s exploitative past.
Hostile work environment
In Apple’s early beginnings, while Jobs may have run the company effectively, he is said to have treated his own employees and coworkers poorly. He had an informal policy of belittling his workers, and the overall corporate culture was one of secrecy and intimidation. Over the years, staff members have anonymously testified to the constant tension they felt working under Jobs; in fact, Jobs was ousted by Apple in 1985, amidst complaints that he was too demanding of his workers. Although he was later rehired after Apple had financial trouble in 1997, his authoritarian style of leading never wavered. After the disastrous launch of MobileMe, for example, Jobs famously gathered the team who created it so he could shout expletives at them and publicly fire the manager of the project.
The man behind the Mac
Work wasn’t the only place where Jobs came off as rough around the edges. Philanthropy was not his strong suit; in fact, there is no public record of Jobs having given anything to charity, despite the billions he had to his name when he died. On a personal level, his moral principles were found lacking more than once. For instance, in deciding whether or not to appoint him to a government position, an FBI file was opened; the report concluded – based on testimonies of friends, acquaintances and employees – that Jobs lacked personal integrity. His honesty was questioned numerous times, especially when he denied fathering a child that he later admitted to be his. Jobs may have been a computer whiz, but his personal connections with people had something left to be desired.
Job(s) well done
Steve Jobs was, simply put, a visionary. Similar to his longtime friend and rival, Bill Gates, Jobs envisioned a world that included personal computers for everyone. His brains and commitment helped him bring this vision to life, leading to the creation of Apple. Today, Apple is close to becoming the world’s first $1 trillion dollar company, whose laptops, iPhones, smart watches, and iPads reside in nearly two-thirds of American households. Like with Apple, Jobs always played a few steps ahead, and he foresaw the potential futures of music, phones, digital content and tablet computing. As a result of this forward-thinking, he ultimately disrupted half a dozen industries with his genius.
Few have the unique blend of creativity and perfectionism that characterized Steve Jobs – traits that made him a billionaire. Yet, what put Jobs ahead of other revolutionaries was his blatant refusal to give up. The best example of this was when Jobs bought Pixar in 1986, following a (temporary) dismissal from Apple. When Pixar came into financial trouble, just eight years after its acquisition, Jobs didn’t sell the company; instead, he invested millions of his own to keep Pixar afloat. His perseverance paid off: Pixar came out with the first computer-animated film – the famous “Toy Story” – and the movie made the company $360 million. “Toy Story” was a hit, and, like Apple, Pixar went on to become a multi-billion dollar company.
Jobs wasn’t just a tech maven or business guru; he was an inspirational success story. Many remember the last few years of his life, in which he battled cancer and openly reassessed his life’s priorities. He is still praised for his famous commencement address at Stanford University, in which he managed to poignantly cover subjects like love, loss and death in fifteen minutes. (The speech has since been viewed over 30 million times.) Jobs aired his struggles (such as being fired from his own company), triumphs, difficulties and successes, in an effort to convey a carpe diem-centered message to his audience. His final advice in the speech was to “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish,” and he encouraged listeners to view death as an opportunity to chase their dreams.
Jobs may no longer be alive, but his words of wisdom still resonate today. Six movies have been made about him. Tens of books attest to his genius. And execs in companies from Tesla to Disney revamped their companies for the better, thanks to Jobs’s advice to dream big.
Bottom line: Steve Jobs effected change across a myriad of industries, but the controversial means through which he ran his businesses and conducted himself rendered him a questionable character. What do you think? Has Jobs’s legacy had a long-lasting impact on your life?