Jobs vs. Zuckerberg: Two Very Different, Intense Cults

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Fortune's new in-depth look at Facebook confirms that Mark Zuckerberg has created the type of intense cult it takes to build a successful tech company, but it's a very different from the one created by the tech industry's other mega-successful cultish leader, Apple's Steve Jobs. As the social networks readies itself to go public, Jessi Hempel and Miguel Helft got to peek inside the Facebook offices, and came away with a sense that while Zuckerberg's firmly in control of the social network he built, he is also working to spread the "hacker way" that guides his army of coders to the growing business arm of the company, led by Sheryl Sandberg, that is making money off all of the technological wonders. On the coding side, "Facebook holds bootcamps to teach engineers to 'think like Zuck,' forces people to change projects midstream, and even mandates all-nighters," they write. "It is also the canon that Facebook is trying hardest to impose on its more traditional businesses and marketing operations." The biggest challenge Zuckerberg faces, they conclude, is figuring out a way to do that as the Facebook naturally becomes more corporate. "Executives are consciously working to codify its winning formula—essentially institutionalizing a sort of anarchic mentality—even as the company is about to be handed a very thick rule book from the SEC."

Jobs, too, faced a similar challenge at Apple. He actually lost at one point, when he was exiled from the computer company in favor of an executive with more corporate experience. But, taking what we learned from Hempel and Helft, it's clear that the Cult of Zuckerberg operates according to different principles than the Cult of Jobs that the Apple visionary managed to create. 

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Feared leader?

Jobs: Steve Jobs was a known jerk. From his FBI file: "Several individuals questioned Mr. Jobs' honesty stating that Mr. Jobs will twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals." When he disagreed with something, he was "rude, dismissive, hostile, spiteful," wrote Gawker's Ryan Tate at the time of his death. And, he was known to "screams at subordinates," added Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker

Zuck: Zuckerberg isn't a softee, but "is less a dictator than a guru for these coders," Andrew Bosworth, director of Engineering, told Hempel and Helft. "Of course his opinion is final," continued Bosworth, but when he isn't satisfied, he doesn't take it out on others in a nasty way. When he didn't like a profile page redesign, for example, he was disappointed without acting bitchy, explain Hempel and Helft. "Zuckerberg was not critical. He didn’t skewer anyone," they write. "He was simply matter-of-fact about the shortcomings of the new profile pages and about what had to be done next. If there was some wounded pride among the engineers, they got over it quickly."


Jobs: The Apple leader had some sort of OCD issues, it seems. "He sits in a restaurant and sends his food back three times. He arrives at his hotel suite in New York for press interviews and decides, at 10 P.M., that the piano needs to be repositioned," wrote Gladwell after reading the Walter Isaacson Biography. That perfectionism seeped into the company culture. Like, that time Steve Jobs requested a new screen on every iPhone just a month before its debut. From the New York Times: "'I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,' he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. 'I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.'"

Zuck: Zuck believes in tinkering, in building something quickly and then fixing it after the fact. "The Hacker Way is an approach to building that involves continuous improvement and iteration," Zuckerberg wrote to investors, report Hempel and Helft. And Zuckerberg makes sure to reinforce that "hacker culture" ethos. "It’s a place where everyone takes to heart the dictates written on posters plastered all over campus: done is better than perfect and move fast. break things," continue Hempel and Helft. 


Jobs: Jobs wanted to build the most beautiful, useful products on the planet. He cared less about money than he did about perfection.  From the Times: "He didn’t just pore over spreadsheets, personnel issues and revenue numbers, as most C.E.O.’s are expected to do. He thought about design, too. In fact, he went beyond thinking about it. He obsessed over it," writes Nick Bilton.

Zuck: Like Jobs, Zuck also cares more about his product than about the money. He leaves the business stuff to COO Sheryl Sandberg, explains the Fortune article. But, his ambitions aren't to design beautiful products, rather to connect people. "The 27-year-old co-founder and CEO has always displayed an almost preternatural ability to forge ahead with his lofty ambitions—to make the world a more open and connected place—even amid major distractions," write Hempel and Helft. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.