On a fall day in 2010, Jack Dorsey stepped before his staff at Square, his payments startup, to deliver a pep talk at its weekly all-hands meeting. He was dressed in a rakish dark Prada suit and tie that was much more Don Draper than Silicon Valley wunderkind. Just two years earlier, Dorsey had been ousted from his CEO role at Twitter, where he failed to delegate effectively, motivate sufficiently or inspire trust in his leadership. Now, he appeared to be a transformed man, not only in appearance, but in vision.
Dorsey waxed on about the Golden Gate Bridge — its flawless design, its remarkable engineering and its unwavering utility. He contrasted it with the pedestrian Bay Bridge and its narrow lanes — an eyesore compared with its more charming neighbor.
"A lot of people in our industry, this is what they're building," he said. "It's terrible."
"We want to design the beautiful," he said with a nod to the Golden Gate, "and build the impossible."
He then laid out in clear and confident terms, according to those who attended, what his role was in making sure that happened.
"I think I'm just an editor, and I think every CEO is an editor," he told the room of about 30 executives, engineers and staffers. "I think every leader in any company is an editor. Taking all of these ideas and you're editing them down to one cohesive story. … We have all these inputs, we have all these places that we could go — all these things that we could do — but we need to present one cohesive story to the world."
Several former employees of Square point to that talk as the birth of a new Jack. Not a final version, but a coming-out party of sorts for a brilliant design and technical mind who was re-energized and ready to transform into a leader after a humiliating ouster from Twitter.
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Now Dorsey, at 38, finds himself leading not one but two big companies. He plans to remain CEO of Square, which is slated to go public this year even as he is expected to be named the CEO of Twitter, a role he has held on a temporary basis since June. What some think is crazy, Dorsey believes to be fulfilling.
"It's exhilarating for him," one long-time confidante said. "He draws energy from how to think about both companies."
Whether by coincidence or design, Dorsey's comeback closely resembles the Steve Jobs Narrative — a modern myth Silicon Valley entrepreneurs hold up as a map to absolution. Like the Apple co-founder, Dorsey was the impetuous, petulant CEO pushed out by his allies. And after a soul-searching exile, he's welcomed back as the savior to a troubled enterprise. Even his line that every CEO is an editor is said to have been borrowed from Jobs.
What's so different about Dorsey now?
This time, the bitterness that marked his brief return to Twitter in 2011 as executive chairman and product czar appears to be gone. This time, he comes with the pedigree of having built from scratch a company — Square — that is on the precipice of an IPO. This time, according to more than 20 current and former colleagues Re/code interviewed over the past few weeks, Dorsey has grown up.