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Larry Ellison on Steve Jobs personality, successes and failures

Karen Haslam | June 1, 2012
Last night president of Pixar Ed Catmull and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison sat down at the D10 conference to chat about Apple’s late CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs. They discussed Jobs success, his personality, how he interacted with people, and what made Jobs so unique.

He added: "Steve wasn't a programmer. But he had enough knowledge of what went into the product. Very smart boy. He learned very fast.

And then there's the fact that: "Steve was brutal. He desperately wanted Apple to be great," as noted by Ellison.

Wanting Apple' to be great didn't necessarily translate into Jobs wanting Apple to be the most valuable company in the world, but he achieved that too. Ellison said: "Apple became the most valuable company on earth and it wasn't even one of Steve's goals. He was obsessed with the creative process and building something beautiful," noting that Jobs' focus was always on making the best product, not making the most money from selling a product.

That's not to say he wasn't pleased with the financial implications of Apple's success, he saw that as an indication that he was making the best products. Ellison noted: "He called me up when Apple passed Oracle in market cap...He noticed and he was proud of it. It was just kind of a measure that he was doing the right thing. Therefore what he was building was in fact beautiful."

Page 2: How Jobs learned to be more of people person

Page 3: How leaving Apple the first time transformed Jobs

 

How Jobs learned to be more of people person

The conversation also touched on Jobs relationships with colleagues. The late CEO and co-founder of Apple isn't well known for his skills as a people person, but the general consensus was that if your idea was a good one, he would listen to you, and if you were full of it, he'd tell you.

Ellison said: "Steve was one of those people where the best idea won. But you had to persuade him, and he was a smart guy."

"He's very good at listening," Ellison added. "And if he thinks you're full of it, he'll tell you."

Jobs is famous for changing his mind. Ellison noted: "Well, he'd make the final decision. But when he changes, he changes like that, Bang. He wanted the best."

Catmull's experience of working with Jobs at Pixar is a complete contrast to tales of Jobs at Apple. Nevertheless, Catmull said: "It was amazing to see him flip. But he wanted you to argue back.

So why did Jobs shout down colleagues when he didn't agree with their ideas and then later assign the idea as a good one? Ellison suggested: "Steve was not intellectually insecure. When he decided someone had a better idea, he moved on immediately. He didn't care. All he cared about was building the best product."

Despite being a tough boss, Jobs inspired his colleagues to achieve incredible things. Ellison explained: "Steve was a remarkable leader. He inspired people to do great things, whether you call it a pitch or telling a story. You're working 6-7 days a week, 16 hours a day, Steve would come in and make you feel that what you were doing was important, and you were important. He was an inspirational, charismatic leader. People wanted to be on his team."

 

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