I'm reading The Hard Thing About Hard Things which is excellent. Part of what makes the book unusually good is that it draws a lot from Ben Horowitz's personal experience launching and running a series of companies before becoming a VC. And he's very honest, focusing often on the decisions made when things were not going so well, or in other words the times when he was a 'wartime' CEO. These kinds of leaders, says Ben, don't need the typical kind of management books that 'focus on how to do things correctly, so you don't screw up,' but instead on 'what you need to do after you have screwed up'. And...'the good news is, I have plenty of experience at that and so does every other CEO'. It is, says Ben, the ability to spot the next move during the struggle that separates the winners and losers.
I noticed that Shane Parrish had pulled out a passage that I'd also highlighted in the book. It deals with a time whilst Ben was CEO of his software business Opsware. Believing a lot in training his managers, he had set clear expectations whilst personally training them about the need to meet regularly with each of your team members. The discovery that one of the managers in the company had not met with any of his team members for six months led him to have something of a crisis of confidence about how well he was communicating his expectations, until he realised that whilst he had told the team what to do, he had not been clear about why he wanted them to do it.
Calling the offending manager's boss into his office, Ben explained that the reason he was motivated to come to work was because it was personally very important to him to build a good company:
'Let me break it down for you. In good organizations, people can focus on their work and have confidence that if they get their work done, good things will happen for both the company and them personally. It is a true pleasure to work in an organization such as this. Every person can wake up knowing that the work they do will be efficient, effective, and make a difference for the organization and themselves. These things make their jobs both motivating and fulfilling.
In a poor organization, on the other hand, people spend much of their time fighting organizational boundaries, infighting, and broken processes. They are not even clear on what their jobs are, so there is no way to know if they are getting the job done or not. In the miracle case that they work ridiculous hours and get the job done, they have no idea what it means for the company or their careers. To make it all much worse and rub salt in the wound, when they finally work up the courage to tell management how fucked-up their situation is, management denies there is a problem, then defends the status quo, then ignores the problem.'
Worth reading what Ben says next, but I think that description is very apposite.