September 13, 2015

Learning from tech leaders I admire

Today I have read a very interesting piece that Fast Company - one of my must-read publications -  has recently produced on Uber and its CEO Travis Kalanick. It is priceless to better understand the company's ethos and driving forces. This has led me to think a bit about some of the people in tech I admire.

When it comes to leaders in the technology space, a few names come to mind quickly to the general public. A simplified classification I have come up with - Forbes, for instance, has its own ranking of "The Richest People in Tech" - would break down such leaders in three groups:

(1) those who are no longer active or in executive roles but whose influence is still undoubted today (Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates);

(2) those who have rather recently disrupted the world (and continue to do so) and have already significantly cashed out (Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Mark Cuban); and then

(3) those whose companies are on the verge of becoming - to some extent they already are - the next big thing (Travis Kalanick, Elon Musk, Brian Chesky)

Week-in week-out I read a lot of stuff about many of them. And there is always stuff you can learn and try to apply to your more mundane existence. Some takeaways for my own sake are the following:

- long term vision vs. short term profit: I love Amazon's Jeff Bezos' approach to this and how he continues to drive innovation at Amazon by continuing to invest heavily in new services and products (Prime, Amazon Web Services, you name it...), instead of giving in to The Street's pressures for boosting the company's present stock price. At the end of the day, and as obvious as it sounds, the latter will be accomplished if things work out just fine - the last months' stock price evolution being a good example.

- challenge the statu quo: I am gonna go with Uber's Travis Kalanick. I love his strength to challenge what is widely perceived as a legally-protected dated monopoly (i.e. cab service) in pretty much all countries around the world. When customers love your service the regulators can do nothing but ultimately changing the rules of the game.

- dare to dream: nobody in my view is better at this than Elon Musk. From the hyperloop train to life in Mars; from space "tourist" travel to the perfect car. If I had to pick one guy as "the" visionary, I'd pick him. Such "visions" are sometimes broadly praised and some other times hammered. However, few people feel indifferent.

- learn, learn, learn: when Mark Zuckerberg started to take the stage as Facebook's CEO and main spokesperson he was widely criticized for his relative weakness with presentation and public speaking skills. He has invested time and effort in getting better and the results have been evident, his notorious recent presentation in Chinese being a great example. Just because one is at the top of the world does not mean that he knows it all. Be humble and never stop getting better.

- be generous: you can call tax planning...or you can call it giving back to the community. Or you can argue that it is a bit of both. But the huge contributions that the likes of Microsoft's founder Bill Gates continue to make to try to make the world a slightly better place should not be unnoticed.

These are just some ideas. There are a zillion others. But I do know that working for and/or with someone you admire and look up to makes your work more rewarding. Plus it commands an extra "something" that at the end of the day results in self-improvement, additional commitment and increased loyalty. 

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