Crazy Man

Steve Jobs knew that the Macintosh computer was going to change the world. The charismatic leader of Apple Had a habit of thinking big. But, the Mac went through a terrible cycle of plunging sales, disappearing software, vanishing vendors, and eroding morale that not only threatened the computer's future but the company's as well. During the early eighties, Steve Jobs was booted out of the company he founded. Apple Computer thrived for a time but the lack of leadership took its toll. In time, CEO, John Sculley was shown the door and Sculley was followed by Michael Spindler and finally, Gil Amelio. The media had already begun to write Apple's obituary when a white knight suddenly appeared. A hero from across the bay who would right the wrongs and save the day. It seems Steve Jobs hadn't been idle during his exile and had moved on to found another company called, Next, Inc. That company would develop the operating system that would save Apple's bacon. But, Jobs purchased another company as well. I still remember Silicon Valley wonks laughing their heads off because Steve Jobs had squandered five million dollars on a worthless start up called Pixar.

Let's go back to that terrible period when Apple Computer appeared to be in free fall. Technology pundits expounded, "what Apple Computer needed was a businessman." Creative geeks like myself were in total disagreement. We knew what Apple needed. It's the same thing creative companies need today but find lacking. Apple Computer didn't need a businessman. It needed a "crazy man." And, what is that, you say? A crazy man is a person who breaks all the rules. He's a person who doesn't follow trends or look to Wall Street for answers. It’s a person crazy enough to believe in their own vision for the company they lead. They know that doing it better than anybody else makes a difference. They know if you please your customers first, then in time, you'll please Wall Street.

During the time I worked at Pixar Animation Studios, screenings were often held in Burbank for the Disney executives. Steve Jobs usually took the time to attend the screenings. Two films I worked on during that time was, Toy Story2, and Monsters, Inc. They'll always be favorites of mine, and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to work on them. Yet, there was one thing I noticed during Steve's visits to Disney. He always had questions about the man who had cofounded the company. He always wanted to know more about Walt Disney. Suddenly, I was reminded that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were cofounders of their own company much like Walt and Roy decades earlier. What was the passion that drove these founders of great companies? Was it a desire to make huge sums of money or was it a desire - crazy as it may seem, to change the world?

Back in the day when thousands attended MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, it was amazing that one day I happen to step on the escalator right next to Steve Jobs. I was immediately struck by the way he dealt with  fans and admirers. While other CEOs skulk about in public buffered by a legion of subordinates, Steve Jobs moved among the crowd completely at ease. I once saw him kneel down to shake the hand of a child who had tried to get his attention. I couldn't help being reminded of another mustachioed old gentleman I knew who was known for being gracious in public. Today, Apple continues to innovate. And, hopefully they’ll continue to do so even without Steve Jobs. Steve’s other company across the bay will continue to knock our socks off with their innovative motion pictures because artists, not businessmen are allowed to flourish in a studio where creativity trumps management interference. 

It appears some want to change the world and others just want to do business. We should be glad Steve Jobs admired the "crazy man" with the mustache. The one with outlandish ideas, such as sound cartoons, feature length animated films, and theme parks. Hell! Walt Disney even wanted to build his own city. Walt was told his ideas would never work, but he went ahead anyway. I'm glad Steve Jobs returned to the helm of Apple Computer some years ago and I’m glad he had the wisdom - or craziness to purchase Pixar Animation Studios as well. Sadly, Steve has left us but I can’t help but wonder. I can’t help wonder how he would manage another media company that could truly use the vision and creativity of a crazy man.

He was a determined guy who wanted to break the rules and simply do things the right way. His way. I can't help but be reminded of another boss who shared the same ideas about leadership.

He was a determined guy who wanted to break the rules and simply do things the right way. His way. I can't help but be reminded of another boss who shared the same ideas about leadership.