I don’t have any personal knowledge of how Steve Jobs was as a manager, but every account I read of him was that he was demanding and in your face. While this can be an effective management style of some, it does come with some associated costs.
Increased litigation costs
Unless your start-up has a huge backer and litigation budgets are not a concern, being a demanding manager that only says what is exactly on your mind when it comes into your mind may get good results, but it will also invite litigation. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing illegal about being a demanding manager at work, but a lot of people probably don’t understand that. Also, over 20 states have proposed legislation to make bullying in the workplace illegal, but none of these attempts have become law – yet. Plus, even if the employee understands it is not illegal behavior, it creates an environment where the employee wants to get even with a manager or founder for how they were treated. This leads them to talk to a lawyer, which may lead to a lawsuit based on some other ground. Even if a lawsuit filed against a company is frivolous, it will take time and money away from what the company is supposed to be doing. This can cause a huge stress on a start-up company.
Good employees have options
If you treat your superstars badly, they know they will find another comparable job in this economic climate. Jobs and Apple created an environment where only the best work from everyone was tolerated. Jobs said that this helped the company maintain its “A” players because they did not have to be around B or C players. While I can see this rational, unless the company is Apple with an existing reputation, a lot of employees will not put up with an over demanding, unfriendly workplace. And many talented employees left Apple because they did not like Jobs’ style. The loss of good employees (who probably go to work for a competitor) asserts a huge cost on a start-up.
It still comes down to management style choices. But the choice to be like Jobs will have a cost associated with it. And if the company is a start-up, these costs may not be worth the perceived benefits.