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Volatility , Tantrums, Intensity & Rudeness of Great Tech Founders
Collection of behaviors of Tech Founders & CEOs who are volatile, throw tantrums, intense & rude.
Please NOTE that this may not be their behavior ALL the time or forever. This are just examples of behaviors at points in time.
Jeff BezosFrom Brad Stone's Book- The Secrets of Bezos
Intensity is hardly rare among technology CEOs. Steve Jobs was as famous for his volatility with Apple subordinates as he was for the clarity of his insights about customers. He fired employees in the elevator and screamed at underperforming executives. Bill Gates used to throw epic tantrums at Microsoft; Steve Ballmer, his successor, had a propensity for throwing chairs. Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, was so harsh and intimidating that a subordinate once fainted during a performance review.
Bezos fits comfortably into this mold. His drive and boldness trumps other leadership ideals, such as consensus building and promoting civility. While he can be charming and capable of great humor in public, in private he explodes into what some of his underlings call nutters. A colleague failing to meet Bezos’s exacting standards will set off a nutter. If an employee does not have the right answers or tries to bluff, or takes credit for someone else’s work, or exhibits a whiff of internal politics, uncertainty, or frailty in the heat of battle—a blood vessel in Bezos’s forehead bulges and his filter falls away.
Larry PageBut for Page's employees, working at Google felt more like a never-ending thesis defense. Everywhere you looked, there were know-it-alls ready to gleefully tear into you. Page had originally bonded with Brin over a day of fierce argument, and that's how the relationship grew. Their debates were not shouting matches. They were a series of blunt points made by one side, and then the other, with a little name-calling thrown in. Page would call one of Brin's ideas stupid. Brin would say Page's idea was naive. They'd both called each other bastards.
Page never felt any deterioration of his friendship with Brin after these fights, so he styled his interaction with other Googlers in the same unvarnished way. Page once told a room full of Google's first marketing employees that their profession was built on an ability to lie.
Page had a tendency to communicate through emphatic body language. He'd lift an eyebrow in a way that made you know he thought your idea was stupid. If you said something that made him angry or uncomfortable, he'd respond in a quieter tone, and wouldn't be able to look at you while he did it.
He became infamous for his lack of social grace. A slow-loading application during a product demonstration would prompt him to start counting out loud.
Page encouraged his senior executives to fight the way he and Brin went at it. In meetings with new hires, one of the two co-founders would often provoke an argument over a business or product decision. Then they would both sit back, watching quietly as their lieutenants verbally cut each other down. As soon as any argument started to go circular, Page would say, "I don't want to talk about this anymore. Just do it."
It wasn't that he was a tyrant. It's just that he connected to people over their ideas, not their feelings.
Elon MuskJ.B. Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officerI try really hard to back away and put my ego aside. Elon is incredibly difficult to work for, but it's mostly because he's so passionate. He can be impatient and say, 'God damn it! This is what we have to do!' and some people will get shell-shocked and catatonic. It seems like people can get afraid of him and paralyzed in a weird way.Straubel says he really respects Musk, though:He has driven this thing with his blood, sweat, and tears. He has risked more than anyone else. I respect the hell out of what he has done. It just could not work without Elon.Anonymous Tesla EmployeeElon's worst trait by far, in my opinion, is a complete lack of loyalty or human connection. Many of us worked tirelessly for him for years and were tossed to the curb like a piece of litter without a second thought. Maybe it was calculated to keep the rest of the workforce on their toes and scared; maybe he was just able to detach from human connection to a remarkable degree. What was clear is that people who worked for him were like ammunition: used for a specific purpose until exhausted and discarded."Elon has the weirdest kind of empathy of anyone I've ever come across. He doesn't have a lot of interpersonal empathy, but he has a lot of empathy for mankind," Vance said. "I think he has a completely different set of emotions than the average person does. The thought of the human species being wiped out, it's all consuming."Vance, Ashlee (2015-05-19). Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic FutureThat Musk was willing to let Mary Beth Brown (Musk's assistant for 12 Years) go and in such an unceremonious fashion struck people inside SpaceX and Tesla as scandalous and as the ultimate confirmation of his cruel stoicism. The tale of Brown’s departure became part of the lore around Musk’s lack of empathy. It got bundled up into the stories of Musk dressing employees down in legendary fashion with vicious barb after vicious barb. People also linked this type of behavior to Musk’s other quirky traits.
Steve Jobs was considered to be a class example of exhibiting bluntness in dealing with people.But before you judge Steve Jobs for his behavior, remember his motivation according to Jonathan Ive (the head designer of Apple & a close friend of Jobs):Jobs’s taste for merciless criticism was notorious; Ive recalled that, years ago, after seeing colleagues crushed, he protested. Jobs replied, “Why would you be vague?,” arguing that ambiguity was a form of selfishness: “You don’t care about how they feel! You’re being vain, you want them to like you.” Ive was furious, but came to agree. “It’s really demeaning to think that, in this deep desire to be liked, you’ve compromised giving clear, unambiguous feedback,” he said. He lamented that there were “so many anecdotes” about Jobs’s acerbity: “His intention, and motivation, wasn’t to be hurtful.”Here are articles that talk about his behavior:
Bill Gatesvia Joel Spolsky"In those days we used to have these things called BillG reviews. Basically every major important feature got reviewed by Bill Gates. ....In my BillG review meeting ... a person who came along from my team whose whole job during the meeting was to keep an accurate count of how many times Bill said the F word. The lower the f***-count, the better."Four," announced the f*** counter, and everyone said, "wow, that's the lowest I can remember. Bill is getting mellow in his old age." He was, you know, 36.Later I had it explained to me. "Bill doesn't really want to review your spec, he just wants to make sure you've got it under control. His standard M.O. is to ask harder and harder questions until you admit that you don't know, and then he can yell at you for being unprepared. Nobody was really sure what happens if you answer the hardest question he can come up with because it's never happened before.It was a good point. Bill Gates was amazingly technical. He understood Variants, and COM objects, and IDispatch and why Automation is different than vtables and why this might lead to dual interfaces. He worried about date functions. He didn't meddle in software if he trusted the people who were working on it, but you couldn't bullshit him for a minute because he was a programmer. A real, actual, programmer.