"One of the reasons we have this culture of strong language, that admittedly many people find off-putting, is that when it comes to technical people with strong opinions and with a strong drive to do something technically superior, you end up having these opinions show up as sometimes pretty strong language," he said. "On the Internet, nobody can hear you being subtle."
Excuses, excuses. One can easily be heard and still be professional if he wants to. Linux alone is so cool and influential that the leader of the project will certainly get noticed even without peppering everything with insults and cursing.
Could it be different is a really interesting question, mostly because it's impossible to answer. Big projects that span decades are the result of thousands of decisions, perhaps hundreds of thousands of interactions. Linus has found a certain style that appears to work for him and the team closest to him so I won't say it's wrong, but if his style were different would he have attracted different people to that inner circle, and would those people have been more effective or less? Can't say.
What's interesting to me is that big, audacious ideas that succeed are so often led by people with borderline, clearly flawed personalities. Napoleon, Edison, Disney, Hitchcock, Patton, Jobs, Gates, Balmer, the list goes on and on.