Beware charismatic leaders; they won’t save us

Basecamp resignations:

About a third of Basecamp’s employees have said they are resigning after the company, which makes productivity software, announced new policies banning workplace conversations about politics.

I followed Basecamp’s Signal v. Noise blog for a long time and I’ve got a few of the founders’ books on my eReader. I avoided the Hey! email product because it seemed to me to solve someone else’s problem.

A few Christmases ago my nephew talked my ear off about Elon Musk. Musk is not for me. He’s not entertaining to watch/hear/read, I suspect he isn’t as innovative as his marketing suggests, and I suppose he likely has a few Jony Ives behind the scenes he prefers to keep there so as not to diminish his limelight. I love my nephew regardless of his taste.

Before that I was into Google in a big way, not just for Brin and and the other guy but what Marissa Meyer was doing there. I had a crush, intellectual and schoolyard. When she jumped ship to Yahoo!, I was on-board. Marissa would be free to do her thing! She disappointed.

Google disappointed me, too, in so many ways. They’re in the process of killing off the last remnant of what I found essential of Google, Voice. Once it’s gone I think my Gmail account will go into forward only hibernation.

Steve Jobs.

Palm was a great example of charismatic leadership keeping a moribund property afloat. It divided and reformed and divided again and made a big platform change and, in many respects, is the Apple cautionary story had things played out differently. The new Palm had new leadership and new investors (Bono!). When HP bought Palm under Mark Hurd, I was ecstatic – finally enough money and tech savvy to realize the vision, I thought. Hurd was ethically compromised, so the guy from SAP came in and effectively killed Palm. Then Meg Whitman came to town and I left town (I worked for HP) and she “maximized shareholder value” and then went on to launch Quibi.

I’m sure in my timeline there are other folks I elevated or could have elevated who would have disappointed me.

Companies will lose whatever approximation of soul the founders might have tried to imbue, what with absolute power and all. There’s too much money, power, and prestige at stake.

UPDATE: an earlier version of this post said Meg Whitman ran for governor of California after her time at HP. That happened before she went to HP.

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About Paul

I’m a Detroit expat recently returned from Tokyo living in Chattanooga. I’m a consulting security professional and father of two. I promise that my views and politics are mine; not yours or my employer’s or anyone’s. I follow no party or affiliation or anything. My things are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license unless otherwise stated.

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