A mostly overlooked New York Times piece last week described Steve Jobs as "the last tyrant," a guy who "chewed out subordinates and partners who failed to deliver, trashed competitors who did not measure up and told know-it-all pundits to take a hike."
Jobs readily admitted that he wasn't around much for his four kids, and he authorized a last-minute biography of himself because "I wanted my kids to know me." The same kids, he was saying in his sentimental last months, who were the best thing he's ever done. (He also said, "Doing LSD was one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life." So you got to wonder.)
"People who are crazy enough to change the world are those that actually do," Jobs said.
They're also usually bad bosses, bad spouses and bad parents. Don't agree with me? Well Jobs did. Consider the overwhelming personal foibles of the people who Jobs himself lifts up to this status in his ad, "Here's to the Crazy Ones."
We forgive geniuses their private atrocities to the extent that their public contribution added to the greater happiness, subtracted from the sadness, increased the comfort, decreased the fear, deepened the beauty and countered some of the ugliness.
Steve Jobs is forgiven.
But the fact is, Jobs was not the last tyrant. To the tyrants who remain: You'd better hurry up and make something great.
That, or start being a better human being.