Despite the fact Apple co-founder and Silicone Valley pioneer Steve Jobs was a college dropout, the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Business Review are singing his praises, all the while still considering him something of an extreme paradox.
The Harvard Business Review has created a special section specifically dedicated to the legacy of Steve Jobs, featuring writers from across the nation and Harvard students and professors weighing in on his influence and innovations. The business school also created a blog in the name of Steve Jobs.
Since Jobs lost his battle with cancer this past week, the world has witnessed an outpouring of appreciation for him that has surpassed levels typically reserved for popes, presidents and heads of state.
Harvard rarely sends out or writes public praises about CEOs, as the school tends to lean more toward research and polls.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of Confidence and SuperCorp, says if there were a Nobel Prize for business, surely Jobs would have won it.
“Apple was always a counterculture challenging establishments and going for the future – like the early emphasis on getting Apples into classrooms to help kids learn,” Kanter writes in the Harvard section. “Jobs didn't put his name on the door, although the Macintosh was named after his favorite apple, and company style reflected his tastes.”
It is interesting to note that in 2009, the Harvard Business Review had published some harsh words about the Apple leader saying, “Steve Jobs is a horrible manager.”
The influential publication said there are two things everyone knows about Steve Jobs.
“He pushes his employees to make some pretty impressive – and market-changing – products. He's also a horrible person to work for. Now the Harvard Business Review confirms, once again, the latter.”
The article reads on saying, “Jobs, for all of his virtues, clings to the Great Man Theory of Leadership. He is a CEO-centric model of executive power that is outmoded, unsustainable and, for most of us mere mortals, ineffective in a world of non-stop change.”
However, as part of its January 2010 issue, the Harvard Business Review shifted its opinion and released its list of the top-performing CEOs in the world, placing Apple CEO Steve Jobs first among CEOs ranked by performance throughout their tenures.
Kanter goes on to say that “the Apple-Microsoft rivalry reflected the kind of competition that spurs innovation.”
“He won't be known for the charitable foundations bearing his name or the good done afterwards but for the value created through new products during his lifetime. Jobs brought design from backroom to forethought, shook industry boundaries, challenged giants, and excited consumers. That is an enormous legacy that will stand the test of history.”
Adi Ignatius, the editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review, says it was widely reported that Jobs was a bully, but also the most successful CEO of our time.
“Jobs knew how to win over a room,” Ignatius writes.
“He controlled his image carefully, leaving little to chance. Efforts by Time to profile him over the years had to be done strictly on Jobs' terms. He might grant an interview, but only after he had secured a deal for, say, a cover story timed to his next product release."
Ignatius continues to write that people like Jobs can get away with that kind of behavior only if you have achieved the kind of brilliance that makes us willing to accept those terms.
“His ability to innovate, and his attention to detail – particularly concerning product design – are unmatched.”
Ignatius said he met Jobs at the TIME 100 gala in New York City nearly a decade ago.
“It was a red carpet event, with A-listers from the worlds of politics, business, entertainment and sports,” he writes.
“Jobs, whose signature black turtleneck redefined, for that evening, the meaning of ‘black tie,’ was clearly bored. Standing by the bar before dinner, he turned to me and sighed, 'I thought this would be a more interesting event.' He left soon after. He had more important things to do.”