Preston Gralla

Harvard Business Review -- Bill Gates, not Steve Jobs, deserves idolization

November 04, 2011 11:12 AM EDT

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Since his death, Steve Jobs has received an enormous amount of well-deserved public acclaim. But a piece in the Harvard Business Review argues that Bill Gates, not Steve Jobs, should be the businessperson we most admire, and be the model for our children to emulate.

The piece was written by Maxwell Wessel, who is a researcher at the Harvard Business School's think tank that focuses on innovation, the Forum for Growth and Innovation.

His central argument is that although Steve Jobs was a visionary and likely "our generation's most important leader in the world of business," Bill Gates was a better model for us as complete people. He says:

While Jobs should be who MBAs and industrial designers try to emulate, I'm not sure he's who we should idolize. That respect should be bestowed on someone we talk less and less about, Bill Gates.

His argument is simple: Bill Gates sees his ultimate legacy as helping others and changing the world via philanthropy, while Steve Jobs saw his ultimate legacy as building a great company. He quotes from a note that Gates sent to the Harvard community: "I hope you will reflect on what you’ve done with your talent and energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you work to address the world’s deepest inequities, on how well you treat people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity."

Then Wessel concludes:

As much as I love Apple, Inc, I would happily give up my iPhone to put food on the plates of starving children. Steve Jobs turned his company into a decade long leader in the truly new space of mobile computing. Bill Gates decided to eliminate malaria. Who do you think we should be putting up on a pedestal for our children to emulate?
Not to take anything away from Steve Jobs, but I absolutely concur with Wessel's conclusion.