Even When Apologizing, No One Could Do it Quite Like Steve Jobs

I wasn’t surprised when I heard of the passing of Steve Jobs, but what did catch me off guard me was the outpouring of emotion — real, sincere, straight-from-the-heart emotion — about him, and how he is being mentioned today in the same sentence as legends like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

Yes, Jobs was an American original and can never be replaced or duplicated. Apple will survive, but it will not be the same without him

I’ve always had an appreciation for Jobs. Yes, along with the greatness he was also known as a legendary jerk (as I wrote several years ago), and he could trash talk the competition along with the best of them, but what I most appreciated about Jobs was his ability to say he was wrong and apologize.

This couldn’t have been easy for a guy with an ego like Steve Jobs, but as I said back in 2007 (in another blog, in another place), it showed Jobs at his very best as he responded to a crisis as only Jobs could. Here’s what I wrote:

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When it comes to famous jerks, few can match Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Yes, he’s imaginative, persuasive and innovative, as you would expect from the guy who gave us both the Macintosh computer and the iPod, but he’s also arrogant, condescending, and nasty. Jobs is mentioned prominently in the book, The No Asshole Rule, and author Robert Sutton fondly recounts a reunion of 1,300 former Apple employees in 2003. “Even though Jobs didn’t attend, he was the main source of conversation, especially tales of his tirades and tantrums,” Sutton writes. “In one attendee’s words, ‘Everyone has their Steve-Jobs-the-asshole story.’ ”

Given Jobs’ reputation, it must have been a bit difficult for him to apologize earlier this week to Apple customers who were rightly upset when the price of the iPhone was cut by $200 only two months after the product was launched. As a story in The Washington Post put it: “Complaints like this prompted Jobs to offer his apologies in an open letter posted on Apple’s Web site–along with a $100 credit on Apple products to customers who bought the device at the old price. ‘We need to do a better job taking care of our early iPhone customers as we aggressively go after new ones with a lower price,’ he wrote. ‘We apologize for disappointing some of you.’ ”

Say what you will about Jobs, but he responded to the mini-crisis–one that knocked some $11 billion off Apple’s market cap by one estimate — quickly and decisively. And, even if you don’t believe it, Jobs’ apology sounded a bit sincere and a tad contrite, which apparently is not his standard operating procedure…

Will an apology and a $100 credit on a new Apple product soothe the ruffled feathers of early iPhone buyers? Only time will tell, but the speed of  Jobs’ actions shows that when it comes to making things right, the combination of money and a quick apology (even if it does turn out to be thinly veiled marketing scheme) is a combination that’s hard to beat.”

Got a thought on Steve Jobs? If you do, I’d love to hear about it in a comment here.

Love him or hate him, there will probably never, ever be another one like him. We’ll remember him, and what he was about, for a long, long time to come.

John Hollon is managing editor of Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. He's also the former founding editor of TLNT and a frequent contributor to ERE and the Fistful of Talent blog.