A few years ago, a friend's successful startup was bought by a Fortune 500 company. I will never forget the conversation I had with him when he was well into his tenure as a top executive in the new organization.
"I'm making more money than I ever dreamed," he said. "And yet the things I see every day, they're wrong. With every decision I make, my morals get a little looser. I just don't know if this life is for me."
Here was a perfectly average guy thrust into a position of power, at the moment of realization that maybe he wasn't enough of a jerk to run a large company.
For those who read Walter Isaacson's biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, this issue may sound familiar. By anyone's definition, Jobs was one of the technology world's greatest success stories, taking product innovation and creativity to an entirely new level. But, and this is a big but, he was also a hard-hearted narcissist who treated loyal employees like garbage. Was Jobs' harsh approach necessary and would Apple have done as well without it?
For both sides of the debate, have a look at my column at the AMEX Open Forum.