Apple fans rejoice. The latest biography of Steve Jobs delves deeply into the complex personality of the Apple co-founder, shedding new light on the man who created and shaped some of the most popular tech products on the market today.
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader is told using accounts of disciples and dissenters alike, giving us a closer look at a well-known story. The book has received the endorsement of Apple, unlike the earlier biography by Walter Isaacson. This time the story is told by journalists Brent Schlender (Wall Street Journal and Fortune) and Rick Tetzeli (Fast Company) who combine their voices into one.
You know the story. Genius, timing, luck, and a PT Barnum-like ability to spin a tale lead to fame, fortune, and outright worship of a young Steve Jobs by the tech and media establishment. Then came pride, and the fall.
It takes a third of this book to cover the rise and fall of Steve Jobs and, frankly, getting through that first part is a slog. It’s like reading a 150-page, long-form WSJ article. Informative, to be sure, but dry and full of words you’ll need to look up. The authors dive into the ugly parts of what brought down Steve Jobs. You won’t feel great about him. Press on, though, because it gets better.
The second part of Becoming Steve Jobs is all about his learning years, spent in a purgatory of his own making called NeXT. He’s still brash, and still makes impetuous decisions in the name of design. But he also buys Pixar, loses his cult status as a tech god, gets married and has children.
It’s during this time that Jobs begins to smooth a few of his rough edges. He learns delegation and a measure of humility. He perfects the art of negotiation. He still has a switch that can be flipped, taking him from zero to crazy abrasive in an instant, but it’s tempered more than in the past.
Then, in story we know well, genius and luck mix with a more seasoned and mature leader. And we see his triumphant return to Apple — albeit with days numbered on account of recurring bouts of cancer that would eventually end his life. This is where we see the stuff of legend — the moves that will ultimately make Apple the most valuable company on the planet.
This biography finishes strong by showing us how Jobs built a super group inside Apple to execute on his strategy. Jobs had figured out product creation for the masses, and learned that he couldn’t do it all by himself. While the tirades of his youth didn’t disappear, they also weren’t directed at individuals that he found weak, seeking to destroy them. Instead, they were directed at those he deemed worthy, seeking to get the best out of them. And it worked.
He was a genius, and a tyrant. He was arrogant, and thoughtful. He could be fiercely loyal or forget you ever existed, even if you were once a core part of his team. He yelled, cajoled, threatened and charmed his teams into producing better work than even they thought was possible. And in the end, he led greatly.
No matter your opinion of Steve Jobs as a man and a leader, his complex traits create an epic character and, ultimately, another worthy biography.
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader is available in hardback and e-book formats.GeekWire Picks is a regular feature linking to our favorite products and deals. GeekWire or its partners may receive a share of the revenue from your purchase through affiliate referral fees.