Survey Sunday Roundup: Leadership in the Geekonomy

With the passing of Steve Jobs, we asked about Leadership in the Geekonomy – let's take a closer look!


1. With Steve Job's passing, what do you think his contribution to the Geekonomy was like?

  • 0.0% – He was unmatched for his good contribution.
  • 60.0% – He contributed a lot of good things overall.
  • 40.0% – His good contributions were matched by his bad ones.
  • 0.0% – He didn't contribute anything that good or unique, or that bad.
  • 0.0% – He had a net negative contribution.
  • 0.0% – He had a very negative contribution.

Now that's a narrow band of answers.  Let's go to the comments and see what you folks said:

  • "Overall, Apple pushed things in the Geekonomy. Not everything was a success (the Newton), and not everything was useful to everybody, but the concepts came through as Apple took place as a leader."
  • "I'd say Job's contribution overall was positive; workable, aesthetic, precise technology. Personally he seemed to have some objectionable qualities that he also wrestled with. In the end I think his overall vision was good for culture and technology, and we'd be poorer without."
  • "He made things easy. He also made things closed-ended. It's not clear one requires the other."
  • "While he may have been a technical and design genius, the fact remains that as a person, he was anything but. He went to lengths to deny paternity of his first daughter. He repeatedly ripped off his partner Steve Wozniak, pre-Apple. He not only did not give to charity himself, he prevented Apple from having the same philanthropic ideals as its competitors. And he never denied the controversial belief that he may have paid under the table to get his organ transplant. He parked in handicap spaces…and not only happily racked up the tickets, he never picked up the car the Cupertino PD impounded as a result of his malfeasance. Even still, people forgave that and sought out his advice. As a leader and a tech legend, he was clearly incredible. As a person, he was clearly abhorrent. Yet it is undeniable that without those bad facets, it would not have made the good stand out. Bill Gates, in many ways, was his personal antithesis, but when Bill passes, will anyone care as much?"

I'm hearing a lot of talk around the net on Job's many flaws, though as noted earlier, it's mixed in with so much wank it's hard to separate reality from  . . . well wank.  Which is even more interesting in the light of his extreme differences and people's reactions to it.

More and more I look at Jobs and I think celebrety – and not in the current sense.  I think of someone like Elvis, someone with great talent and obvious human failings people seemed to like for their mix of being larger-than-life as well as human.

Bill Gates, for all he did (and frankly, I find it unappreciated), somehow didn't have that element to him.  I'm not sure why.

So on to the next question . .

2. How important are these traits for a leader in the "Geekonomy:"

This was on a 1-4 scale (Not Important, Somewhat Important, Important, Indespensibe).  How did our 5 respondents answer?

Compassion – Everyone rated this at Important

  • Intelligence – Somewhat Important (1), Important (2), Indespensible(2)
  • Wisdom – Important (3), Indespensible(1)
  • Creativity – Everyone rated this at Indespensible.
  • Marketing Savvy – Not Important(1), Important(4)
  • Engineering/Technical/Scientific Knowledge – Somewhat Important (1), Important(2), Indespensible(2)
  • Financial Savvy – This was split all across the board, with 2 people rating it important, everything else 1.
  • Cultural Knowledge – Important (3), Indespensible(2)
  • Aesthetics/Design – Somwhat Important (1), Important(4)
  • Advertising Savvy – Somwhat Important (1), Important(4)
  • Business Sense – Somewhat Important (1), Important (3), Indespensible (1)
  • Knowledge of History – Somewhat Important (1), Important (2), Indespensible (2)

So in general everything was Important except Creativity, which everyone agreed was Indespensible, but we weren't entirely in agreement as shown.  Let's go to the comments:

  • Some stuff you can hire specialists for…
  • Sometimes, "if you build it, they will come" works, especially when you've got your fingers on the pulse of the Geekonomy. Recognizing an untapped niche is far more important than convincing people that an unnecessary gadget is wanted. (With mp3s becoming popular, the iPod was out at the right time.)
  • A really good leader has a sense of "place" of who they are and what they do, a web of interconnections that led to the "now" and will lead to the future. This requires either a few dedicated advantages, or a rather broad set of integrated traits.
  • Comparing the Jobs archetype to other corporate heads, it's simple: Jobs was a leader, a despot, a statesman. Everyone else is just the guy in charge.

If there's something I'm taking away from this it's that leadership is a case of, well, leading.  It's a place where people are at least really good and forward thinking in some areas and set the stage.  This was something Jobs did, and I think a lot of Geekonomic leaders do with little appreciation.

However we can't mix that up with people who just have the title.  As we've seen all too often, sometimes the person making the decision is just the guy/woman in charge.

Any other thoughts?

Steven Savage