The Microsoft co-founder and longtime rival of the late Apple boss said Jobs was able to “mesmerise” people to work harder, but admitted his notoriously tough management style was not one others should follow.
Speaking to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on his GPS programme about leadership, Gates said: “Steve (is) a good example of ‘don’t do this at home’”, but added that he was yet to meet anyone else who could match Jobs “in terms of picking talent, hyper-motivating that talent and having a sense of design”.
“So he brought some incredibly positive things along with that toughness,” Gates said.
The Microsoft founder said it was Jobs’ ability to “cast spells” over staff and others that helped Apple become one of the most valuable companies in the world.
After leaving Apple in 1985 following a board dispute, Jobs returned to the then-struggling company in 1997, eventually leading it to success with a number of new products, including the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
“I was like a minor wizard because he would be casting spells and I would see people mesmerised, but because I’m a minor wizard the spells don’t work on me,” Gates said.
“I could not cast those spells, but I’d see them and I’d say: ‘Hey, wait, don’t! You’re going to work even more than I would ask you to.’
“Steve is a very singular case, where the company really was on a path to die and it goes and becomes the most valuable company in the world with some products that are really quite amazing. There aren’t going to be many stories like that.”
Last month, the former Microsoft chief executive said his “greatest mistake ever” was allowing Google’s Android, rather than his own company, to become the world’s biggest mobile operating system.
Gates stepped down as Microsoft chairman in 2014 and now works full-time for the charitable foundation he formed with his wife – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.