My spouse works for Apple in the finance department and today took over 30 calls from finance contacts, e.g., accounts payable, comptrollers and the like, who called to express their condolences to the company on the passing of Steve Jobs. Note that these weren’t people who expressed condolences in passing during a routine business call, these were people who called specifically to express their condolences.
My spouse mused, “If Bill Gates died do you think people would call Microsoft just to say how sad they were?”
I gonna go with, no, no they wouldn’t.
It’s strange to see a billionaire entrepreneurial executive lionized and mourned like a heroic soldier or a great artist. Most business people, regardless of the good they do or how much they change the world for the better are hated and resented by the greater public. People seldom believe they’ve earned their wealth or deserve respect for their work. Jobs was different.
Of course, like all American game changers such as Ford and Edison, Jobs relentless marketed himself. He practically made himself a brand. Yet, that doesn’t quite explain the Jobs phenomena. Marketing only gets you so far and in the case of business personalities, is more likely to get you well known and despised than well known and admired.
I think the Jobs mystique arose because millions of individuals could experience the results of Jobs’s work every time they used an Apple product or service.
Psychologists have long noted that people don’t resent all wealthy equally. People resent millionaire bankers but don’t resent actors, athletes or musicians who make as much or more for less work of far less import. The key differences seems to be that the work of bankers is mysterious and largely invisible to the ordinary person while the work of actors and athletes occurs right out in the open where everyone can see it. People can connect specific songs or other works of art with specific artists. People don’t seem to intuitively begrudge great wealth and power as long as they can “see” the work that created the wealth and connect that to an individual.
When people used a Mac, iPhone, iPad or iTunes, they got an intuitive sense of results of Jobs work. In a sense, they could “see” him working just like they could see the work of an athlete or an actor. When people held an iPhone, they thought, “Steve Jobs created this.”