AMERICA'S TOUGHEST BOSSES In an era of endless restructuring, cutting heads like Robespierre on a rampage is just average. These leaders inflict pain by messing with your mind as well. Here's what they're like to work for.
By Brian Dumaine REPORTER ASSOCIATE Rosalind Klein Berlin

(FORTUNE Magazine) – ONE FALL afternoon in the late 1980s in a glass-walled conference room at Next Computer's California headquarters, Steven Jobs, five other company founders, and a smattering of employees met to review the design of their embryonic computer. A manufacturing manager started explaining that making its black, space-age magnesium shell would cost $200 a unit or more. After roughly two minutes, Jobs, his face turning red, cut the startled man off in mid-sentence and began screaming wildly that the shell had to cost $20, that the manager didn't know what he was talking about, and that he was going to ruin the company. The expletive-laden tirade lasted three to four minutes. Of course, the shell of Next's ill-fated computer ended up costing $200. Says a former employee who was present at the meeting: ''Tell Steve you can't do something because it violates the laws of physics, and he says that's not good enough.'' And you thought that your boss was demanding. Steve Jobs is one of seven CEOs FORTUNE has chosen as America's roughest, toughest, most intimidating bosses. The others are Linda Wachner of giant apparel maker Warnaco, who once kept an out-of-town manager waiting three days for a meeting and advised an executive to fire people if he wanted to be taken seriously; T.J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor, who will cut off a paycheck when a manager temporarily falls behind in his work; Herbert Haft of the Dart Group, a national retailer, who fired his wife and son because he thought they were usurping his power; Jack Connors, founder of Boston advertising firm Hill Holliday, whose explosive ''Jack Attacks'' can terrify unwary employees; and Harvey and Bob Weinstein of New York City film distributor Miramax, whose crazed and driven style, by their own admission, isn't ''healthy'' for them or their workers. What does it take to make our list? In pursuit of toughness, we thoroughly checked out more than 70 of corporate America's hardest-nosed head persons. Impressive also-rans include big names such as Edwin Artzt of Procter & Gamble, known inside P&G as the ''Prince of Darkness'' for his willingness to close factories and reduce head count, as well as lesser lights like John ''Jack the Ripper'' Grundhofer of Minneapolis's First Bank System. Grundhofer has banned green plants from the premises as too expensive and forced managers to justify their private offices in writing in order to keep them (few could). But in an era beset by unending restructuring, where almost any boss worth his stock options has ordered layoffs, we concluded it wasn't enough to be a mere iron-fisted cost cutter or maniacally frugal type. No, over-the-top toughness today implies something more -- something the taskmasters who made our final cut possess in spades. Think of it as a penchant for psychological oppression -- an especially sadistic way of making a point, say, or a bullying quality that can transform underlings into quivering masses of Jell-O. Says Abraham Zaleznik, a professor emeritus of leadership at the Harvard business school: ''Tough is passe. Today you're dealing with a variety of head games. That's where the cruelty is.'' Sometimes driven demandingness can be downright abusive. Says Peller Marion, a San Francisco psychologist who helps fired executives: ''Such bosses are often not self-aware. They do whatever works without looking at the consequences of their behavior on other people.'' No surprise, then, that six of our seven toughest are entrepreneurs of the winning-is-everything variety. Wachner, the only boss who didn't start her own company, specializes in salvaging deeply troubled companies. Says she: ''There's no leader of a turnaround who's a beloved leader.'' What makes such bosses tick? Dr. Gerald Kraines, a psychiatrist who heads the Levinson Institute in Waltham, Massachusetts, and lectures at the Harvard medical school, believes the type often suffers from what he calls, in good Freudian jargon, ''rigid superegos.'' That means they have such high expectations and are so unyielding that they are impossible to please. Says Kraines: ''The abusive boss is constantly angry with himself and others for falling short of his ideal.'' While that aggressive style often produces results, it isn't necessarily good for the boss's own job security. A few who would have made our list didn't because they were fired -- in part, for being too mean. Case in point: Paul Kazarian, ousted in January as CEO of Sunbeam-Oster, the appliance maker. Kazarian once hurled an orange juice carton at his controller, among other questionable acts.

Why haven't all our tough bosses ended up like Shakespeare's vile Macbeth, alone in their castles, their lords having deserted them? The main reason will disappoint observers eager to believe nice guys finish first: Every one of these impossible tyrants has made pots of money. Herbert Haft turned a single drugstore in Washington, D.C., into a $1.3 billion retail empire. Jack Connors built a successful advertising agency with clients like Nissan (remember the Infiniti ads with Zen rocks and trees?) and John Hancock Insurance. Since Linda Wachner brought Warnaco public in 1990, the stock has appreciated some 60%. SUCH SUCCESS means that in addition to pleasing shareholders, you can hire a small circle of highly talented people and secure their loyalty by making it well worth their while to put up with you. Wachner's CFO and controller each hold over $3 million in company stock; we know because she ordered both men to come into her office and tell FORTUNE just how rich she had made them. Of course, for middle managers not raking in a king's ransom, the reward-to-pain ratio for putting up with one of these characters may look somewhat different. FORTUNE solicited nominations by polling executive search firms, consultants, academics, financial analysts, and top managers. To ensure impartiality, those businessmen polled were not allowed to nominate their own CEOs. We then conducted more than 500 follow-up interviews to check out these leads. Candidates had to be in top jobs of major U.S. corporations. Still- active alumni of FORTUNE's prior toughest bosses lists in 1989, 1984, and 1980 -- such as American Airlines' Robert Crandall, GE's Jack Welch, and Intel's Andy Grove -- were automatically excluded. Now meet seven of the most ego-squashing, tongue-lashing, tail-kicking bosses in U.S. business -- and count your blessings.

THE RABID PERFECTIONIST Ever since Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer when he was 21, the meditating computer mogul has been known as the enfant terrible of Silicon Valley. Now, as head of Next Computer in Fremont, California, the 38-year-old Jobs is no longer an infant, but according to those who have worked with him, he still is terrible. Yes, as many colleagues and former colleagues attest, Jobs is a brilliant man who can be a great motivator and positively charming. At the same time, they say, his drive for perfection is so strong that employees who don't meet his expectations -- like the hapless manager who tried to warn him about the true cost of his computer's shell -- face blistering verbal attacks that can eventually burn out even the most motivated. ''The highs were unbelievable,'' says Dan'l Lewin, a co-founder of Next who left the company in 1990. ''But the lows were unimaginable.'' Talk about lows. In the late 1980s two Next engineers had been slaving nights and weekends for 15 months (including toiling over Christmas break) to meet an important -- and impossible -- deadline for a new state-of-the-art + chip. No one had ever designed such a thing before, and the strain was incredible. For all their effort, at a weekend off-site meeting Jobs publicly and viciously berated them before the entire company for not working faster. Out of pride they finished the project, but one quit soon thereafter. Says a former Next employee: ''Steve's attitude is, 'You've been on it a week, and you're supposed to be brilliant. So what have you done?' That's why so many people are afraid of him.'' Why does Jobs do this? Dan'l Lewin believes that the former wunderkind's drive for perfection often keeps him from listening to what employees have to say. Says he: ''Steve micromanages minute details. He gets a picture in his mind's eye and focuses on it. It's hard to tell him what he doesn't want to hear. He'll keep changing the question until he gets the answer he wants.'' One ex-employee recalls that Jobs was so demanding that, on principle, he would often reject anyone's work the first time it was shown to him. To cope with this unreasonableness, workers deliberately proffered their worst work first, saving their best for a subsequent presentation, when it would have a better chance of satisfying the boss's expectations. Says a former Next executive: ''Being around Steve is a reality distortion.'' WHAT'S especially unnerving, some employees say, is that Jobs sometimes can't -- or won't -- explain what his expectations are. For example, before the introduction of the Next Computer at San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall in 1988, Jobs made a worker go through 37 different shades of green until she found the one that was right for the company's corporate color. This person describes the final choice as ''Steve green.'' Says the employee: ''It was exasperating. The hardest thing was that I couldn't guess what was in his head. I wanted to say, ''Oh, come on. Green is green!'' Though Jobs declined to be interviewed for this article, his office did make available several current Next employees who wanted us to tell you that Steve is going through a ''major personality change'' and becoming much more of a consensus manager and team player. Noted.

THE QUEEN OF IMPATIENCE As head of Warnaco, Linda Wachner is the only female chief executive of a FORTUNE 500 industrial company. Even her detractors paint a picture of a woman with impressive business skills, who can be sensitive to employees with illnesses or special needs. Since taking Warnaco private in a hostile ^ leveraged buyout in 1986, she has increased the value of stockholder equity by some $140 million -- and not done too badly herself. Her Warnaco holdings are worth $72 million, and she helicopters between her Park Avenue office and her new mansion in the Hamptons. Still, former employees also describe her as a boss who's so impatient to achieve these admirable results that she will do almost anything, including frequently humiliating employees in front of their peers. Wachner has a fiery temper, and she herself admits, ''I'm not very long on patience.'' At Warnaco top executives come to meetings carrying notebooks with DO IT NOW! inscribed on the front cover. If someone says or does something the CEO doesn't like, watch out. One former employee says that, according to a story making the rounds, Wachner lashed out at a meeting of executives from the women's clothing group. Angered by their performance, she declared: ''You're eunuchs. How can your wives stand you? You've got nothing between your legs.'' At another meeting, she asked the new company president, who had been there only a few weeks: ''Have you fired anyone yet?'' He replied, ''No.'' ''Well,'' she said, ''you'd better start firing people so they'll understand you're serious.'' Remarks a manager present at the meeting: ''Linda wasn't joking.'' Where Wachner does show patience is in the length of her meetings, which can start as late as 5 P.M. and run until midnight or 1 A.M. She also expends considerable energy keeping in touch with her people. One executive reports that she telephoned him 31 times over his Thanksgiving break. By the end of the weekend, he had quit. Wachner knows how to keep people off balance. A few years ago she called in one of her senior managers from out of town. After meeting with him, she said she needed to speak with him once more. The man reports that he cooled his heels in the New York office for three days before she deigned to see him again. That encounter lasted less than two minutes, after which he was sent home. However hard she is on others, Wachner seems to have made peace with herself. Sitting in her flower-bedecked office, in a black dress set off by a gold and amber necklace, she reflects: ''I've yelled at people, and I'm not ashamed of it. We have to run this company efficiently and without a bunch of babies who say, 'Mommy yelled at me today.' It's impossible to run a leveraged operation like camp. If you don't like it, leave. It's not a prison.''

THE POMPADOURED BULLY Some bosses can be tough to work for because no matter what their employees say or do, or what the facts indicate should be done, the big guy must have it his way. Period. An A+ student of this school of management is Herbert Haft, CEO of the Dart Group. His retail empire includes the Crown Books chain and Trak Auto, a national network of auto supply stores. This June, Haft, to ensure his continued position as reigning power of this empire, fired his corporate secretary (his wife, Gloria) and his president (his son Robert). What apparently stood Haft's hair on end was a newspaper article that appeared last spring suggesting that his clout was on the wane and that Robert, 40, a Harvard MBA who founded Crown Books, had become de facto head of the family empire. Herbert, 73, who is a diminutive man (five feet tall) with a shocking-white pompadour (try to imagine a cockatoo with a limo and driver), decided that simply wasn't going to happen. In an April board meeting at the company's Landover, Maryland, headquarters, Herbert clashed with Robert over plans for their liquor store business. While Herbert wanted to expand, his son pointedly noted that the only existing outlet was operating at a loss. Haft's wife, Gloria, and daughter, Linda, 43, sided with Robert. According to court papers filed in August by Gloria, who after 45 years of marriage is filing for legal separation from her husband, the CEO, appearing agitated, screamed epithets, threatened various family members, and appeared out of control. The filing also contends that at one point the elder Haft and Linda struggled violently over some papers. Paterfamilias Haft allegedly grabbed his daughter, who weighs 98 pounds, shook her, and shoved her forcefully around the room. As Linda struggled with her father, Gloria and Robert tried to pull the two apart. Gloria contends that during the fray Herbert dragged both Linda and her around the room until he was subdued. At other meetings before and after the April blowup, Haft's wife claims, he would insist she not be permitted to speak, ask questions, or voice an opinion. She also says that in front of their children, Herbert called her stupid and crazy and declared she knew nothing about the business. The court papers contend that Herbert continually threatened to bankrupt his two older children and five grandchildren and to destroy their lives if they failed to accede to his every demand. In June, when Haft fired Gloria and Robert, he ( threatened to use security guards and electronic surveillance to keep them out of the office. Haft, in a statement from his lawyer, claims that Gloria's version of what happened is a pack of lies and that, in fact, she assaulted him. While most who know him acknowledge his toughness, some former Haft employees agree that Gloria's charges are completely out of character with the way he typically treated his family. Still, over the years Haft, whose major businesses have all grown from within, has tried to buy something like 50 different companies. Yet each time he got close to concluding a deal, he would lean on the other side so hard they'd back away. He also has a history of litigiousness. In the 1960s he sued his brother, Leonard, and sister, Sylvia, in an attempt to win total control of the Dart chain. When he lost, Herbert didn't speak to Leonard for 15 years. Says a source who sides with Gloria: ''Herbert Haft hasn't had one long- standing relationship he hasn't broken in his whole life. He has always had an intimidating, military style: 'You do it because I say so.' ''

THE GOOD COP/BAD COP DUO The world of the movies has long been known as a hotbed of cutthroat bosses, people who like to hurl their massive egos all over the lot -- like the producer who once took a pair of scissors and cut off an employee's tie he didn't like. But even in this never-never land of tough top dogs, Harvey and Bob Weinstein stand out. As the founders and co-chairmen of movie distribution company Miramax Films -- bought by Walt Disney this spring for an estimated $60 million -- the Weinsteins built a successful business by releasing such critically acclaimed films as The Crying Game, My Left Foot, and The Thin Blue Line. The brothers first became interested in high-brow films in college when they happened upon Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows, going to see it under the impression it was a porno film. To intimidate rivals and motivate employees, Harvey and Bob, who grew up in Queens and now run their business out of a Tribeca office building in New York City, rely on a mess-up-your-head good cop/bad cop routine. One former Miramax worker recalls, for example, that during an interview with a newspaper reporter Bob stormed out of the room, seemingly furious at the line of questioning. Harvey, playing the good cop, hastened to smooth the reporter's ruffled feathers. Says the onetime employee: ''It's a way to try to get people to give in to them.'' In another episode Harvey, during a Miramax softball game in Central Park, fired an employee for making an error. The brothers rehired the terrified young man later in the game. Says Harvey, who doesn't recall the incident: ''It sounds like some kind of joke to me.'' One who was there insists it didn't seem that way at the time.

What is indisputable is that Bob and Harvey can trigger fear and anxiety in their people. One ex-employee, after telling FORTUNE a number of positive things about the brothers' management style, proceeded to add, ''and if my name appears anywhere in this piece, you'll hear from my lawyer.'' Another ex- employee describes working for them as ''the worst experience of my life. It was Japanese management theory on acid.'' Why such a severe reaction? The brothers, say those who know them, burn with an overweening desire to win. Says one former Miramax executive: ''They are too concerned about the business to worry about being abusive to their employees.'' Another ex-employee recalls the brothers' intimidating a young woman employee, telling her that she'd never work in the business again. Says this former manager: ''They go right to the jugular.'' Other former employees say that when the brothers explode, they slam doors, throw phones, and kick over chairs. Says one who fled the company: ''Working there was a total frenzy and a total state of anxiety.'' Both Bob and Harvey admit they're tough but claim that they're trying to mellow out. Any grief they give their employees, they say, is a function of their unremitting drive to make a success of art films in a market that favors big commercial blockbusters. ''This maniacal and passionate pursuit has to be taken down a beat,'' admits Harvey. ''You can hurt people's feelings, and that's the part I hate. It's not healthy for me and not healthy for the people I work with.''

THE TURRET GUNNER Another form of psychological warfare is waged by a kind of boss you might label the Inquisitor. Though highly intelligent, such a CEO is aggressive and exacting when seeking information, often to a fear-inducing fault. No one better exemplifies this breed than T.J. Rodgers, chief executive of Cypress Semiconductor and author of a new book, No Excuses Management. On the wall of his San Jose, California, office hangs a plaque that reads: BE REALISTIC. DEMAND THE IMPOSSIBLE. Holder of a Ph.D. in engineering from Stanford, Rodgers has one of the most incisive and analytical minds in Silicon Valley. He has used it to build his chipmaker into a profitable $300-million-a-year company. At Cypress anyone who engages in buck passing or in what Rodgers considers sloppy thinking soon feels the brunt of his wrath. First, Rodgers, who's described by one former employee as looking like ''John Denver on steroids,'' puts on what he calls his ''drooling psycho face.'' This features, among other things, bulging veins and narrowed eyes. He follows up with some fist pounding and a verbal lashing that leaves no doubt of his displeasure. Says Christopher Brigham, an ex- Cypress manager and a Rodgers fan: ''I've watched T.J. tear people to shreds and make them leave the room in tears.'' At meetings Rodgers always grabs a seat, not at the head but on the corner of the table, because this maximizes the number of employees in his line of sight. At Cypress this particular chair has come to be known as the turret seat. It's called that because Rodgers has a habit of swinging around in it as if in a gun turret, pointing at people at random and firing off tough or terribly technical questions. So feared are these meetings that some employees spend hours studying arcane details before showing up. Others arrive at the meeting half an hour early to claim what are known as ''stealth chairs'' -- the ones farthest from Rodgers on his side of the table and thus most out of his view. Refreshingly honest about his punishing management style, Rodgers says that working at Cypress is like ''crawling through a muddy battlefield.'' Once, when employees complained about long hours, Rodgers dug out old Army cots and pillows that he and the other company founders used in the early 1980s when some literally slept in the office. Rodgers then set up the cots outside the bathrooms to remind people how easy they have it, working only 12- to 14-hour days. Sometimes the CEO's behavior can seem like mere capriciousness. A few years back when still at Cypress, a manager submitted to Rodgers an approval form for a routine business trip to Japan. A few days later the request came back torn into 50 pieces in an envelope. The employee submitted it to Rodgers again, and this time the form came back torn in two. Exasperated, he set up a meeting with the CEO and asked what was wrong. Rodgers then explained that overseas travel requests required the signature of the vice president in charge of that region. The manager submitted the request yet again -- this time with the VP's signature. It came back signed; scrawled in the margin was the word ''bingo.'' In his never-ending drive to make Cypress run more efficiently, Rodgers has developed a factory automation and information system that he calls ''killer software.'' These programs are designed to actually intercede -- stop work on a batch of faulty chips, say, or keep a wrong order from being shipped -- if something goes awry. While the system has helped the company, the boss's killer software can be pestilential to employees. If a vice president doesn't do his employee evaluations on time, for instance, the system will stop his paycheck from being issued. One vice president who had fallen behind came into Rodger's office and said, ''Where's my paycheck?'' Rodgers, putting on his drooling psycho face, replied, ''I am prepared to watch you lose your house and your family, for real.'' The next day the evaluations were done, and subsequent batches came in right on time. No one has ever accused Rodgers of having a double standard. At one point the CEO fell behind in his own work and got his paycheck cut off. Rodgers had to sell some of his Cypress stock to pay his bills.

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE Jack Connors is the kind of boss whose behavior is so changeable that certain employees have given him two different names. Says one former manager: ''Every time I went to see Jack, I'd ask his secretary, 'Who am I going to see today, Jack or Bob?' Bob was what we called his dark side.'' Jack can be a wonderful man, a consummate salesman whom one ex-employee describes as ''generous, warm, and engaging.'' Since starting Hill Holliday 25 years ago, he has built a $300-million-a-year business with national accounts such as John Hancock, Coopers & Lybrand, and Lotus Development. He has lent money to employees in financial trouble and paid for private school for one employee's kid who got on the wrong side of the law. Jack himself jokes that he is currently supporting ''a wing at a dry-out center.''

Bob, on the other hand, is a thoroughgoing SOB -- ''cold, calculating, and mean,'' in the words of the same former employee who described him as wonderful. At one meeting in the mid-1980s, an executive gave him some sales projections that Connors didn't like. Connors started kicking the man's chair violently -- with the executive still in it. Recalls a manager who was present: ''There was Jack kicking the chair while this guy hung on like a fighter pilot.''

So extreme are Connors's outbursts that they have become known around the office as Jack Attacks. During one, Connors called in a young employee who hadn't collected a bill from a client. He started screaming so loudly that the kid was left literally shaking. Says a former employee who witnessed that Jack Attack: ''With Jack there was one standard and recurring theme: 'I do everything, and no one else does anything around here.' '' Adds an executive who used to work for Connors: ''If you look up the word 'control freak' in the dictionary, there ought to be a picture of Jack right next to it.'' Connors sometimes screamed so loudly he could be heard across Hill Holliday's 39th-floor headquarters. Says another ex-employee: ''We'd hear the yelling and say to ourselves, 'There's another poor bastard getting his guts eviscerated.' '' Connors recalls a few Jack Attacks but claims that ''in my mind the last one was ten or 15 years ago.'' Maybe. One current employee says that not that long ago he was quite a way down the hall from Connors's office and heard a screeching voice that he at first didn't recognize. Soon he realized it was Connors going ballistic. WHEN IT comes to hiring and firing policies, Connors's behavior can be baffling. Once he kept a fired employee, who was having trouble finding a new job, on the payroll for more than a year. Connors has fired and hired another current employee four times. But others aren't so lucky. In one case Connors slowly took away a manager's responsibilities and then told this employee that she wasn't doing enough and had to go. Says the victim of this tactic: ''He takes a perverse pleasure in seeing you twist in the wind.'' Connors doesn't buy the argument that he's an especially difficult boss: ''There's no question I'm demanding. But for everyone who takes a few shots, I can provide you with 20 people who can tell you about the good things we've done.'' At one point during his interview with FORTUNE, he turned philosophical. Asked to ponder the notion that kindness and meanness might be parts of a management recipe, Connors concluded that any such cake he baked would include ''a cup of the former and a spoonful of the latter.''

So what can you do if you find yourself working for a tough boss and don't like it? Dr. Kraines of the Levinson Institute suggests you have three options. You can go to that boss's boss -- if he has one -- and ask that something be done. But one always has to gauge the risk of telling the truth. Or you can sit there and take the punishment -- pass the Tagamet. Or you can ask yourself whether the money's worth the agony. If not, quit. As a person who once worked for one of FORTUNE's toughest bosses put it, ''Life is too short.''