On the cult of personality

Following a link from plug-org, I came across Linus Torvalds’ answers
to the following questions in
http://news.com.com/Torvalds+A+Solaris+skeptic/2008-1082_3-5498799.html
:

- What Linux myths or misconceptions do you find particularly galling?

I don’t get upset that easily, so I can’t say that there is any in particular that I find galling. One myth
that I find interesting, but which has nothing to do with Linux or even the IT sector in particular, is the
myth of how a single person or even a single company makes a huge difference in the market. It’s the belief
that things happen because somebody was visionary and “planned” it that way. Sometimes the people themselves
seem to believe it, and then the myth becomes hubris.

I have to continually try to explain to people that no, I don’t “control” what happens in Linux. It’s about
having an environment that is conducive to development, not so much about any particular leader. And I think
that is true in most cases, be it the “great sport coach” or the “great spiritual leader.”

- I’ve always been skeptical of the great man theory of history,

though it’s had its moments. On the flip side, you clearly have had a
pretty big influence over Linux, and Linux has a big influence over
the computing industry. Has Linux made you more humble or has it
boosted your ego?

Hey, it’s not like my ego was that small to begin with, but Linux sure as hell hasn’t made me more humble.
What it has done is to make me realize just how much the movers and shakers really do depend on the
environment they are in, or have been able to build up around them. And while that still doesn’t make me
humble, it hopefully keeps me at least a bit more grounded.

And I’m not trying to say that individuals don’t matter. Individuals do matter, and I’m a huge believer in
the theory that a motivated and smart person can do more than a thousand people who aren’t. But what matters
more than any individual is the kind of environment that brings in the people who shine. One of the things I
think Linux has succeeded really well at is to let people shine.

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