Corollary to the Hard Thing about Hard Things

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

“Can I get an encore, do you want more” - Jay-Z

I recently read Ben Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing about Hard Things. It’s really eye opening and creates a level of empathy in the reader for leaders that make hard decisions every day. It covers everything from how to know your company is toxic to how to do layoffs. Ben starts each chapter with a rap quote so as did I above ;) obviously I chose Jay-Z but I also love Tupac, as is shown by my first blog post ever.

I have a corollary to this: power dynamics. I, personally, have seen and experienced what it is like being a leader when no one really has a full view of who you are as a person. I try to always be authentic and personable, but the fact of the matter is: we are all humans and we all have off days.

Most people only get a view of who I am through Twitter, but that is not fully who I am. I think that is the case for most people on that website. For executives of companies or leaders of large teams, the same holds true: you only see a small subset, through very limited communication, of who they really are.

At work, I like to move fast and get things done. This may result in abrupt communications which is not typical of how I am on the internet. Even more so, if I was to give feedback or an opinion on something, someone might feel it with the heat of a thousand suns and think it is aggressive, even if that is not how I intended it. The best we can do is apologize and grow when we fuck up.

Another example would be if someone in a position of power asks someone to do something. The person without the power might think they have to do it a certain way and can’t push back. We can try to solve this by always making an effort to ask for other’s opinions and feedback.

I really do not enjoy when people hero worship me and I do not think people should hero worship anyone. We are all humans and we are all flawed in our own ways. Anyone who believes someone to be perfect will soon find that they are not. This holds true for anyone: executives of companies, senior engineers, tennis champions, and hollywood stars.

Leave room for people to make mistakes, because they will. What truly matters is how a person grows after making a mistake. It helps to make it very clear that you will make mistakes and welcome feedback. When someone discovers a mistake you’ve made try to treat it as a gift. Allow for failure and growth from failure in others and they will do the same for you as well.

If you are a leader and you empathize with this, I think this problem can also be solved with time. You need time for people to understand how you work and time to grow trust. As long as you continue to be transparent about mistakes over time and grow from them, trust will follow.

It’s hard to see a power dynamic at play if you are in it and hold the power. Power dynamics are in the eye of the beholder. We can all try to be conscious of this and patient as the vines of trust grow around us.