As always, I don’t agree with or use everything I read, but I will still try and summarize it here. If you are new here, read why I put my semi-personal book notes online.
The most interesting thing about this book is that none of my startup friends have read this book! Usually, every book I’ve read there is always someone else I know who has already read it. The stories and anecdotes make it a much more interesting read. Another option for those who have trouble reading through drier books in this domain.
Not all people will need to be leaders, but we all will have to lead at some point. Jon is critical of leaders who exclude those not in leadership positions. This reminds me of my experience working at Toyota Motor Manufacturing. A big part of the culture at the time was the leadership being easily available on the same floor as everyone else. Although I was young, this seemed to be a relatively unique idea at the time.
Jon mentions how he didn’t believe in any of this self-help magic when he was starting. He wasn’t a particularly good person. Eventually, he realized that being a good person is a key characteristic of becoming a powerful leader. Balancing being a good positive person but not blindly trusting someone is important.
Reliability and synergy, although important, do not compare to the culture a leader creates in an organization. Check out the section in the book Zero to One for more information on the importance of culture. The codes and principles which the organization follows can improve productivity and reduce problems. Both Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak mentioned, “Culture beats strategy”. Be able to answer the following:
- What does our group stand for?
- What does our group want to be known for?
The verbal mission statement doesn’t matter, only the cultural mission statement of what people believe.
Good leaders are not careless risk-takers Good leaders are not rule breakers for the sake of chaos Good leaders are not hopeless optimistic
A study mentioned in this book says, “Those who experienced trouble in adulthood are more likely to survive pitfalls down the road”.
“The Curse of Experience” when gone unchecked can cause a leader to make assumptions that the current state is the same as the past state at another company they were in. These incorrect assumptions may cause leaders to embrace “the good ole’ days” while causing inefficiencies in the current situation not applicable to the past.
Team beats individual talents when the talent is not working as a team. Connection with others makes a big difference. Collaborate and collaborate more. A dictatorship (or as some authors have put it, tyrant) doesn’t work.
Leadership requires equal part love and authority. “Positive leaders are humble and hungry”. They are very aware of their lack of knowledge in some areas allowing them to focus there when trying to expand their understanding. Without this awareness they are stagnant.
Jon says that grit makes all the difference. A team forged in the “fire of struggle” is more powerful and united than any other team. I feel this is accurate, some cognitive biases mention this.
If you are doing something you hate, it will be hard to climb out of mediocrity. Not because you aren’t capable, but because when given the choice not to spend time working on it you’d rather do the thing you are actually passionate above.
Leadership is Continuous
Many authors have mentioned this and Jon is no different. There is no finish line when it comes to being a competent leader. The bar is constantly raised and the context is always changing. That’s part of the reason that “The Curse of Experience” is a type of false experience gained. Continuous enhancement is the only way to stay the best. Jon says if you aren’t passionate, you won’t continue to be better.
Jon mentioned the idea of the 1% principle. Something that was informally very popular in the startup space just a year or so ago. It’s the idea that increasing one’s effort by only 1% every day makes a huge difference over a year or a lifetime.
I felt this book had some great points echoed by other more popular authors but just wasn’t as organized. Part of that may have been due to the more story-like format of the book. That narrative format did make it much easier and interesting to read vs other books that read like an instruction manual. Personally, I prefer the instruction manual’s so I can use the saved time to go do something else, like programming.