Do Tech CEOs Need To Be %@#$@^& to Succeed?

In business, usa by Michael Michelini4 Comments

Again, unfortunately, I’m reading more news supporting the fact that “nice guys finish last”. This article I read, Why Are Tech Founders Such Assholes? (Gawker), points out the negative things famous and successful businessmen have done in their career to get ahead.

Sure, you can spin things in different ways, and life is always about perspective. There is that saying “history books are written by those who win the war, not lose the war”, and I’m sure for the most part the rich and famous businessmen of today will be remembered as really nice, smart guys, right?

But in today’s online, transparent world, the world audience can more clearly outline all different perspectives and angles of a startup history, which founder was good and which founder was “evil”.

Reading this gawker article, I am borrowing some excerpts and bullet pointing each of these “not so nice” things these famous tech entrepreneurs have done:

  • Paul Allen says in his new book that fellow Microsoft founder Bill Gates twice watered down Allen’s stake in Microsoft—with Allen’s consent but to his later regret.
  • The “spiritual leader” of Twitter and man who coined the company’s name, meanwhile, still feels betrayed that he was fired by eventual Twitter CEO Ev Williams
  • Ev Williams also left a bitter trail of colleagues at, the company he co-founded and later sold to Google.
  • Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has admitted to sending instant messages in which he wrote “I’m going to f*****k them” in reference to associates with whom he was collaborating on a Facebook-like website.
  • Zynga CEO Mark Pincus, who once admitted, before some of his scammy advertising partners were publicized, that “I did every horrible thing in the book to — just to get revenues right away.”
  • Steve Jobs misled his Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak about the size of a bonus the pair received from Atari, giving him only $350 and keeping $5,000 for himself.

There are tons of great comments there after the original post. I also like a few of the comments in there, sharing below:

johne 04/21/11
Here’s the problem.
In order to succeed you must get obsessed and stay obsessed.
It makes you a dick, but you get shit done.

themightyspitz 04/20/11
[[[referring to a quote from joker character in Batman movie]]] You and your kind….all you care about is money. It’s not about the money; it’s about…..sending a message.

The article also says that Bill Gates now donates a lot of his money to charity organizations. But does that make it right? Actually, maybe if that money goes into his hands and then back to charity organizations, that will make the world a better place then where it was/would have been had he not maybe stepped on people’s toes to build Microsoft to where it was.

Another point is the article says TECH CEO – why does it need to be applicable to just technology companies? I think its hard to be a CEO, or a leader… have to be responsible making DECISIONS and when you make a decision, many times it helps some people, and hurts/upsets others. Sure we try, as a leader / decision maker to make the best win-win decision, but its just not possible to make EVERYONE happy.

This made me think back to a good quote from my motivation page:

“Please all and you will please none.” – Aesop (fabulist)

There are a tons of comments on the gawker article, another stating that “its not personal, its business“, which is another reason against mixing friends and business, BUT you also want to do business with people you trust and have relationships with, which normally means friends. I have personally tried to work with people I don’t get along with, and it can really explode. And its dangerous to do business with someone you never met…even retail customers, the reason you can do that is because the amount of financial risk is low. When you need to do a long term business deal, you want to do that with someone you trust, and that someone normally is a friend.

Anyway, I think we need to separate business and personal, just like a sports game or a video game competition between friends, during the game we fight against each other, but at the end of the game, we shake hands and congratulate each other.

Because business is just another “game” and we can’t let it get too personal.

Unfortunately, people take it personal, get emotional in the workplace (I have to admit, I do mix emotions as well), but in the end, business is just one big game of risk.

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  1. Well, as a tech CEO (or general CEO) myself of a moderately middle size international company, I have to say, not just speaking as a tech CEO but as a CEO in general, you have to look at it like this. Like you’re a sea captain and everyone has to do their chores to keep the boat sailing, full speed ahead.

    Sure there are nice ways to tell people to do things, but when they fall back or start slacking, you have a choice. Be the nice guy and let them walk over you through time OR tell them how it is from the beginning, and stay on them. If it makes me an a–hole to yell at my workers to stop facebooking or horseplaying in the office, then so be it. The company is mine and we are in business to make money. They are here to work, do something productive, something that will in a way produce income for the company…not just wait for their paycheck. If they waste my time, they waste my dime.

    So to be frank, the nice CEO guy will finish last because they have not a tight ship whose ship mates will do what they need to in order for the ship to sail full speed ahead. I want say, time is money, but I don’t need keep repeating myself. The people who truly understand time is money are the ones getting called an a–hole behind their backs. Unfortunately, its gotten to the point where my assistant makes remarks like “I kill you” to me… LOL

    1. Author

      i think there is a saying that leaders have to make tough decisions, and whether people like it or not they have to face it…..i used to be a RA (resident assistant) in university, and it was freshman guys floor. you had to be a good balance of “life coach” and disiplinarian……some RAs were very strict to their residents and therefore unapproachable, while others were more lax in the rules but easier for residents to approach. I was the easier going RA and many times had residents from other floors come to me to discuss personal problems.

      but then again an RA and CEO are different roles….but i prefer RA, haha

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