Now that Steve Jobs has passed away and Walter Isaacson’s fair but inevitably approving biography has been read by large numbers of the self-identified leadership class, we can expect a period in which many will imitate the leadership style of the deceased as a means to success. Let us hope it is short lived. For the conclusion I suspect that many will draw is that it is OK, even necessary, to be an asshole so long as one imagines oneself to be creating beauty and saving the world along the way. Although Jobs fits the MO of so many successful creatives in history (I think of Ezra Pound), each of whose genius seems to be not only closely bound up with but intrinsically related to their lack of social grace, few, very few people actually possess the creative wherewithal to justify the social cost of said genius. This is because genius is not merely a matter of genes. Reading Isaacson’s biography I am struck by the degree to which Jobs was a product of a series of convergent trends in the particular time and place of Silicon Valley in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a place where even working class neighborhoods were inhabited by engineers involved with cutting edge technologies. Jobs could not have happened without his participation in a community invested in electronic culture and his witnessing and joining in the bad manners and counter-cultural ethos of the time. The simultaneous presence of a new cultural assemblage — the electronic gone mainstream — and a rejection of all authority and received wisdom, save that of distant and distorted Asia, allowed him to invent an aesthetics of the electronic that would be distinctive of the Apple brand. (As for Job’s aesthetic itself, it seems to owe largely to his father’s influence and, through him, the aesthetics of high car culture in the 1950s and 60s. Job’s computers in retrospect appear to be most like cars — integrated beautiful things that even an idiot can use.) The kind of success that Jobs achieved is not something that others, even possessing the same cognitive endowments, are likely to achieve simply by adopting what would become his notoriously unfeeling yet passionate leadership style. The cultural cross-currents and social compositions conducive to both Job’s character and his luck are just not available to everyone. So if you find yourself secretly considering this style or, worse, working for someone who has adopted it, remind yourself or that person of this — that it only works if you really can create something great, and that to create something great you have to be part of something great, a great world, such as was Silicon Valley in the 1960s. Better to work for creating that world than to assume it exists.