Do We Need More Jerks To Become Great?

Could the NM world use more jerks?
A jerk is a “no” man (or woman) versus a “yes” man or woman.

This gent argues jerks have made the tech world much better…

“Like everyone else in the tech world, I’ve been reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography. Simultaneously, I’ve been reading the reactions to it. The one that seems to stand out above all others amounts to: “wow, Steve Jobs was a jerk”. Those who have followed Apple closely throughout the years have heard dozens if not hundreds of stories of Jobs berating employees. Isaacson’s book brings a handful of these stories to the masses, and it’s rubbing some people the wrong way.

“Here’s the thing: the tech world could probably use more jerks…

He argues that in the tech world,

“being a “yes” man really isn’t all that helpful. What startups and tech companies need are doses of reality.

“The truth is that it’s a hell of a lot easier to be a ‘yes’ man than to be a jerk. You’re the nice guy, you’re everybody’s friend, you say winning things, you make everyone feel great. Meanwhile, the jerk makes every situation awkward. They tell you the works falls short, that it’s NOT good.

A “yes” man (or woman) provides zero motivation to improve. “What do you think?” “That’s awesome.” Great, done.

“Meanwhile, the jerk tackles the same question. ‘What do you think?’ ‘It’s shit.’ Really? Oh. Hm. What can I do better?”

“Is that helpful? Not on the surface, but the truth is that nothing is perfect.

“Something can always be made better. And people wrapped up in their own idea or product often lose perspective. They may believe what they’ve done is perfect — or at the very least, the best they can do. But it’s often not. They can do better. It’s all about motivation.” More here.

Readers: Is this a boy thing?  Are guys more motivated to do better if they’re told what they did is no good?  What about women?  Does having someone tell you did didn’t do it right motivate you to do it better?  Or does it make you fold up your tent and go home?

“[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][We] would benefit from a few more jerks.  Ideally, honest jerks…Let the public be the “yes” men after jagged rocks have been turned into polished stones.”

Do you agree having a personal jerk would help you get better at doing the business?  That person (who’s on our side) who tells us that what we did, wrote or said was not good enough?  Or was – gasp – bad. To motivate us to do the thing better and better and maybe, even get great?




About the author

Kim Klaver


  • I’d put a jerk on retainer if it meant better results. Otherwise we wait for the results, and if poor we change. So it’s confront the jerk now or deal with the court of public opinion after spending much time and money. Send in the jerks!!!

  • Thanks Kim,

    Your article above does have a few valid points, no doubt. I do believe, however, that there is a fine line between being a jerk and tactfully nurturing results from your team. Personally, I don’t appreciate working for jerks and they do not help me like my job better or make me work harder than I already push myself to do.

    Perhaps Steve would have taken Apple to their current super status faster had he been more tactful and respectful of others his first time with Apple? Yes, his brilliance in marketing raised the bar for many people and companies and his company did achieve great things under his leadership… but how many other brilliant minds working for him are the one’s responsible for creating and developing the technology that made Apple’s products great to begin with?

    I did appreciate and respect many attributes about Steve Jobs and his life… in what he accomplished, but I do not ever condone walking all over people or disrespecting them as individuals to attain that greatness… nor do I believe that his being a “jerk” is actually what got him to the top.

    That just happens to be one of the faults that people overlooked and accepted “Because” of his brilliance, drive and determination… not the sole attribute that perpetuated that greatness, as you’ve asked us to comment on here.

    It’s not about being a jerk that gets things done… it’s being honest and telling it like it is tactfully. I’m not saying it should be sugar coated, like some want or expect… just honest and straightforward.

  • I experienced a similiar situation where a friend brought me into an mlm company introducing me to an mlm millionaire who was “the Jerk”. He was on some sort of power trip where he thought he could yell at his downline. It crossed the line and was too hard to take. It’s one thing to have a pro point out your weaknesses and help you overcome them and another to verbally and aggressively take one down. That’s what he did to me and it ruined our relationship.

  • Thanks, Kim. As always, great insights. And thanks for opening up the conversation.

    I think we do need “jerks,” but I’d rather not frame them as that or think of them that way. We need the honest input. We need to hear the creative differences from the people in our lives and businesses who are “no” people with the backbone to speak up, no matter the consequences. You’re reminding me to lead in a way so that there’s an open climate for unpopular insights and negative views to get a fair hearing.

    So I agree with Joe Huguenard, too–maybe we need the jerks, but they don’t have to be jerks in the way they communicate with us. And so often a jerky manner of response brings up everyone’s defenses and emotions, and progress gets slowed down by the PROCESS rather than the CONTENT.

    I’m taking away a determination to bring my courageous honesty to my circles and to speak up even when my view is not a popular one, and even if everyone else sees things differently. At the same time, I’m going to keep honing my communications skills so that my alternative views can be heard in a way that brings action, not inaction.

  • Hi Kim,

    I agree that we all need to be told the truth.

    I believe a great leader calls people on the “story” they are telling about why things aren’t working and helps them look at themselves and be accountable, plus helps them see a bigger picture with some constructive ideas. A leader does this in a respectful way where the person feels helped and not criticized. It’s all in the delivery.

    A team leader I worked under was responsible for many people leaving the team because she was not open to the ideas of others and it was her way or the highway.

    • Hi Alison,

      Re this: “A team leader I worked under was responsible for many people leaving the team because she was not open to the ideas of others and it was her way or the highway.”
      That’s a problem in MANY mlm organizations. The “jerk” as defined in the article is someone who is not satisfied that the best work has been done. The goal of the jerk is to push others to do better work. And since ANY work (be it scripts or presentations or thinking) can be improved upon, the goal is to make it better, not “my way or the highway.”

      In our hurry to “do it” not enough of us take the time to work with it and make it better. And in our business, with the focus on “duplication”, the idea of different is itself difficult for many ‘leaders’ in the business. Yet different is what moves us ahead.

  • i think that the world is full of people like that and unfortuntly we are stuck with them all we can do is grit our teeth and press through but there are somedays where we just really wanna punch them in the mouth…………….enough said

  • I’m feeling the same as Joe. I’ve worked with and for Jerks but not for long. I’m so much better than being treated badly, even if it’s for my own advancement or improvement. If I can’t give you want you’re looking for, then no amount of acting like a jerk is gonna help that! So to answer your question, NO having a Jerk would not motivate me, having someone give encouragement with tips or suggestions or even saying that something I’m doing isn’t working in a somewhat kind way goes a lot further for me!

  • Interesting post.
    However, from what I see, the whole business of network marketing relies on relationship building… the relations between you and your customers, you and your prospects, and especially you and your team (upline, downline, crossline). In my opinion, you can’t model winning relationships if you are being “a jerk” to your team or its individual members.

    Relationships are built on mutual respect. This doesn’t mean being all “smiley” and pretending everything’s fine when improvements can be made. There’s no respect in that type of behavior either. But there are many more ways to inspire growth and improvement than telling people their work is crap.

    Jerks may have made the tech world better, but people aren’t computers. If someone thinks that being “a jerk” will inspire and motivate others to improve a business that is based on forming positive relationships, that’s a mismatch. Where’s the integrity in that? True leaders are those who acknowledge other people’s strengths and inspire them to keep improving while maintaining positive relationships.

    I think the sales world has far too many “jerks” out there. The people who REALLY stand out and who are the MOST motivating are those who treat everyone with mutual respect.

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