For peak leadership performance it is imperative that the CEO brings perspective, independent thinking and qualitative experience into a synthetic whole.
Perspective means a vantage point above the system which includes the strategic environment as well as the company and its internal systems; independent thinking means the ability to connect the dots others can’t. Once these are in place we can talk about qualitative experience as opposed to one that is largely based on routine.
It’s easy to see that there is a hierarchical relationship between the qualities of perspective, thinking and experience in that there is no experience without independent thinking and vertical perspective and there is no independent thinking without vertical perspective. Perspective is defined by world views.
Today there is a uniform world view represented by the majority, which essentially makes independent thinking impossible and churns out almost exclusively quantitative experiences.
This uniform world view gave birth to the conventional career path: rise from the bottom to the top. The prerequisite for entering this path is to have the same world view, in the course of “rising” any remaining trace of independent thinking is liquidated and routine is pervasive even in the highest echelons of “leadership”.
I am only aware of one exception: entrepreneurship when the founder launches, builds, aligns and sets limits(!) to the organization based on an authentic innate vision.
If there is any compromise on any of the main principles, leadership is lost.
Also: as we can see, vertical perspective, independent thinking and qualitative experience are closely related with perspective/world view being the foundation.
This means for example that if the proverbial visionary founder/ceo has built up a successful company, he’ll have to recognize the exact point in time when he has to stop growth (set limits). If growth continues “indefinitely”, it means that his perspective has been compromised: it has been adjusted to purely quantitative considerations; we can no longer talk about leadership.
Radical, eh?! A child can draw the conclusions. So what’s the point in making this point?
Simple: to provide perspective.
With the right perspective acknowledged and “internalized” qualitative elements maybe introduced even into public companies, not to mention startups or mid sized businesses… who knows: some businesses may take leadership positions, going against the mass.
Even one drop of quality makes a huge difference.
Airbnb, one of the hottest startups coming out from the Silicon Valley, faced a very simple leadership challenge recently: one of their customers’ home was destroyed and her identity was stolen by another airbnb customer. She blogged about it and it went viral.
I’d like to stop here to offer some facts for those who don’t follow the startup scene closely:
Airbnb, an online rental agency that let’s people rent their apartments out to other airbnb customers, was seeded by the most innovative incubator Y Combinator, then the first round of financing was lead by Graylock Partners and Sequotia Capital and most recently by Andreessen Horowitz, Digital Sky Technologies and General Catalist Partners, bringing the valuation of the startup to an impressive $1.3B. Even Ashton Kutcher got in with some undisclosed money. ALL TOP TIER VCs (with the exception of A. Kutcher), investing a total of $120M (minus a few cents) into a team of 3 guys in their late 20s, early 30s, mostly with design and engineering background (not that age and background matters from a leadership perspective, of course).
Needless to say that with such celebrities behind it (and I don’t refer to Ashton Kutcher), the company has been a media darling from the start. This is important because they could have leveraged the media to manage the crisis that broke out….but they didn’t.
So how did this stellar team decide on the appropriate response?
One of the founders called the customer to explain the VC business to her and their concerns about the recent round of funding (over $112M) as well as about the company’s valuation and kindly asked her several times in the course of this conversation and subsequent emails to remove her blog post. Seriously! That’s the best they came up with.
In the meantime they managed to alienate the media, as well. Mike Arrington (founder of Techcruch) who is the designated tough guy in Sillicon Valley, picked up the story talking about airbnb not helping the victim.
What did they do?
Paul Graham (the very well respected y combinator guy) goes on to write a blog about Arrington bullshitting and the customer not being 100% truthful. I assume he made this move after pragmatically thinking about risks and options!
Arrington is a guy who loves such responses and he did what was expected of him: counter attack plus launching a story of another AIRBNB VICTIM.
I don’t continue with the chronology of the drama, just the last move: they came up with an official apology for letting the victim down, etc. plus introduced a new safety measure; standard stuff that reads like it was written (copy pasted) by a jr pr consultant then edited by somebody at the company; not important.
It’s funny to observe this very simple pattern: if there is no leadership present in an organization, the most simple stuff (what’s the right thing to do) triggers the biggest confusion. $120M can buy administrative power and of course fix problems like this disaster, but it cannot buy one instant of leadership.
Story source: Lawrence Aragon PEHubwire.