Leadership: in thought and action

I read a great couple of posts today on bus as I headed back into the city (sprinkled in the middle of a Dexter mini-marathon)
  • First, this great post by Ben Horowitz on why CEOs shouldn't feel the pressure to be needlessly positive and often honesty (and transparency) is the best policy.
  • Second, this incredibly thoughtful essay by William Deresiewicz on what constitutes leadership: and the importance of focus and iteration, and the role of solitude in it.
I recommend reading both, especially the latter. There's a lot that I took away that applies to anyone supposed to, or who aspires to, lead (CEO or not)
  • Be honest and direct: sugar-coating doesn't work. You're almost never as good at spinning things as you think you are and people can tell. Being honest will get more people thinking about the problems you're trying to solve and that's a good thing. They're more likely to respect you for it as well.
  • Any organization becomes a bureaucracy after a while. Its easier for people that are good at just keeping the status quo to thrive in this environment, rather than people that challenge convention or have vision. Most institutions (schools and companies) train their future leaders to do what's being done today a little bit better rather than to have vision. This is a problem. We desperately need more visionaries.
  • To have vision, requires deep thought. This means not falling back on the easily accessible words and ideas of others or just doing what's expected of you, but thinking through the details and convincing yourself.
  • This requires focus and time: and giving yourself uninterrupted time and freeing yourself from distractions (i.e. no looking at email/FB/Twitter every x minutes.) It requires finding a way to not jump to conclusions right away but iterating on, and living with, an idea for a while.
Well, that's the theory. Let's see how applying it in practice works. :)

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