Nice Guys Finish First?
October 31, 2011 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Steve Jobs was legendary for being a badass in the name of seeking excellence from those who worked for him and to make Apple a success. Many other business leaders seem to have similar personalities. But who are the opposite? What business leaders have a reputation for being unfailingly nice?

I would love some anecdotes, links, articles, book recommendations, etc. about people who were able to become very successful without becoming assholes.

(Note that I am not asking for people who are pushovers, or naive. Obviously any leader has to make tough choices and be discerning and critical when needed.)
posted by The Deej to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Warren Buffett
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:10 PM on October 31, 2011

Mitch Kapor
posted by ubiquity at 1:18 PM on October 31, 2011

Bob Moore of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods?
posted by Vibrissa at 1:22 PM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Jim Sinegal of Costco seems to have a reputation as a remarkably decent guy. And oddly enough, when I googled him just now I came across an article regarding his stepping down which describes him as "the retail Steve Jobs".
posted by McCoy Pauley at 1:24 PM on October 31, 2011

The Google founders are apparently nice, unassuming guys with modest lifestyles.
posted by naju at 1:25 PM on October 31, 2011

I've heard that about Michael Dell (of Dell computers).
posted by orrnyereg at 1:27 PM on October 31, 2011

S. Truett Cathy
posted by BurntHombre at 1:34 PM on October 31, 2011

Good to Great by Jim Collins mentions several business leaders like this. I can't remember specific names of individuals right now, sorry.
posted by bardophile at 1:35 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe not a businessman in the same way, but I've heard that Jim Henson was incredibly nice, and tried to never criticize any of his performers. If a skit wasn't working out he would just say "hmmm" in a tone that meant they should try it again.
posted by LaurenIpsum at 3:48 PM on October 31, 2011

Hewlett and Packard. From here:

When he was in eighth grade, Steve Jobs decided to build a frequency counter for a school project and needed parts. Someone suggested that he call Bill Hewlett. Finding a William Hewlett in the telephone book, the 12-year-old Jobs called and asked, "Is this the Bill Hewlett of Hewlett-Packard?" "Yes," said Bill. Jobs made his request. Bill spent some time talking to him about his project. Several days later, Jobs went to HP and picked up a bag full of parts that Bill had put together for him.
posted by springload at 4:37 PM on October 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

I nominate (despite substantial flaws in hindsight), Robert Owen, early industrialist, social reformer, and utopian.

Also (though less a business leader than an organiser), José María Arizmendiarrieta who founded Mondragon.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:53 PM on October 31, 2011

[Link: Mondragon]
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:54 PM on October 31, 2011

Ray Anderson, late CEO of carpet tile company Interface. He's got screen time in the documentary The Corporation as one of the good guys. More here.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:56 PM on October 31, 2011

I've never heard anyone say anything bad about Ben or Jerry
posted by caliban at 5:40 PM on October 31, 2011

I've heard Richard Branson is ridiculously nice to his employees.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:59 PM on October 31, 2011

Dave Thomas
posted by udon at 7:49 PM on October 31, 2011

Definitely Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia. His book "Let My People Go Surfing" is a classic.
posted by IZ at 12:50 AM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, thanks everyone. Lots of great answers here! Looks like I have a lot of reading to do!
posted by The Deej at 6:18 AM on November 1, 2011

I don't know enough to be sure this qualifies, but Tony Hsieh from Zappos sounds like a pretty cool guy from the little bit I've read.
posted by cnc at 1:40 PM on November 1, 2011

I love this question. Thanks for asking it.

Since Steve's death I've been pondering the personality it takes to "succeed" these days. I had decided that I could never be like Steve. Oh, I'm a perfectionist and I know what I want (a designer by trade and inclination). And I try to get it. But I would never browbeat someone. Just couldn't do it.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 11:42 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

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