Leaders Wanted

Inspired by Matt Mullenweg

“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” — Gilbert K. Chesterton

There is no Disneyland without Walt. No computer without Ada. No Mac without Jobs. No Microsoft without Bill. No Southwest without Herb. No programming languages without Grace. We know them by name for a reason. Through force of will they ushered in an unimagined future for millions of people. From their minds to our lives and we are all the better for it.

As we revel in their genius, we also rebel against it. Our culture celebrates the visionary in one moment and tears them down in another. As a society, we are all about the team effort — as we should be, but we should be careful to minimize the crazy ones. Would the Nest thermostat have been just as good without Tony Fadell? Perhaps more pointedly, would it have existed at all?

“There is something interesting that with a lot of these open source projects, there’s almost nothing you can name on the list that has a committee based leadership structure. And I think about that all the time. Like why is it difficult for committees, or an alternative governance structures to create really great software. Backend software, front end software.

You typically have something more like a director of a movie or, you know, conductor of an orchestra. There’s no perfect analogies cause it’s software — it’s different. But like typically have like a person with whom a great deal of decision making power for determining the platform rests. And that is often a good thing for the health and quality of the platform.” — Matt Mullenweg

This does not mean the visionary did it alone. To the contrary, each of these leaders understood only too well the importance of talent and the scarcity of great people. Yes, they had a strong vision and opinions that filled a room, but they appreciated the value and necessity of others. Ditto for all creative endeavors.

“Nobody in the history of design has ever done amazing work by themselves.” — Mike Monteiro

Ok, so what’s the big deal — we already know we need a talented team. Well, here’s the unpopular opinion — a team of smart people isn’t enough. You need someone to step forward — to hold the high the lit torch through the dark passages. To both illuminate the unseen path and provide steady confidence even while the ground is shaky and uneven.

“We need you to lead us.” — Seth Godin

This type of leadership is not based on title or role. It’s more about clarity of vision and the process doesn’t require acting like a tyrant or a jerk. Those who do it well may have a direction in mind, but they draw in everyone’s talent and voice, advocating for the future while shepherding a cohesive experience. The leader ensures that the far off peak remains top of mind even as the team places one foot ahead of the other, zoomed in on the ground beneath our feet.

“Authentic, high-conviction vision is rare and valuable. Double down when you find it or find people who have it.” — Sam Altman

Great products require a strong leader — find that person or become that person. Your team needs you.

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