I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Adrian Cockcroft of Battery Ventures a few brief moments over the course of my career. The first time was when he worked for eBay and I worked for IBM and we were doing a GPFS proof of concept. He was a really nice person (and still is!) and introduced me to LinkedIn. In fact he was my first connection! The next thing I knew, years later he had done incredible things at Netflix and continues to do so at Battery Ventures. He’s said a lot of cool things through the years, but the one story that has been the most impactful to me was his story of the reaction of a Fortune 100 CTO that approached him after he gave a talk.
Adrian’s talk I imagine was about all the cool DevOps things Netflix was doing. The CTO came up to him afterwards and his reaction was: “But Netflix has a superstar development team, we don’t!”
Adrian’s response was classic: “Well, we hired these guys from you”.
The lesson I take from this is the impact that great leadership can have and conversely how poor leadership can squander opportunities and waste millions of dollars.
I’ve been on many teams in my career. I’ve been really lucky to have been on some of the best. The various teams I’m a part of now at Cisco are first class. But there have been times when I’ve thought: If we only had a better team or people that understood more about X or Y, then just imagine what we can do.
Given what Adrian’s story illustrates, I am changing my thinking to believe that I am already on the best team where ever I go. The potential for greatness that is there is unlimited. Everyone I work with really wants to do a good job. We’re driven, passionate and want to be the best. When there are issues, leadership from within the team can surmount those obstacles and make the team better.
I imagine somewhere there are executives in big companies trying to figure out a market they haven’t been able to crack. And they might be thinking: If only we had top developers who could get us there. Then they might think: Maybe we should acquire a company that has top developers and they can get us there.
Well, even though they’re not reading this, I would say to them: You already have some of the best people working for you and all the resources at your disposal. There’s actually another problem here, and it isn’t your people.
And if you disagree with decisions that have been made, you can lead from within and be the leader you want to see. Even if the only one you’re leading is yourself.