Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared on PandoDaily.com.
Can we finally stop pretending someone can run two companies if they just work hard enough or are brilliant enough?
I’m looking at you, Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Twitter investor Peter Fenton and everyone else who spent years arguing that it was totally doable. In various interviews and private conversations throughout 2011, people close to Twitter consistently maintained it was no big deal that Dorsey could build Square – one of the single most ambitious, capital- and execution-heavy startups of our day – and run product at Twitter – a company that was woefully behind on any meaningful product innovation and desperately needed a visionary leader.
You know what they all said whenever anyone asked whether this was sustainable. And you know it even if you’ve never heard it firsthand. “Well, Steve Jobs did it.”
If there’s one phrase that’s more annoying than “What would Steve Jobs do?” it’s, “Well, Steve Jobs did it.” But here’s the reality: Steve Jobs barely did it, and he was Steve Jobs.
It’s widely acknowledged that Jobs was not nearly as involved in the day-to-day operations of Pixar as he was at Apple. And Walter Isaacson wrote in his biography of Jobs about the toll of filling both positions, saying that Jobs believed his health issues started when he was running both companies. The other example people bring up is Elon Musk, who runs both SpaceX and Tesla. But Musk too has said for years it’s not an ideal situation and is “way past the fun part.” Neither Musk nor Jobs – two of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time – have said it was remotely sustainable.