Scout Library

Ben Horowitz: The hard thing about hard things

“If you book_thehardthingsabouthardthingshave to eat shit, don´t nibble.” Advice for running a company when the sun is not shining, when there are no good solutions, when you have to choose between catastrophic and cataclysmic.

Leadership books tend to be written by MBA graduates who write about successful people sailing through to success. Ben Horowitz calls this peacetime leaders, which is but one side of the medal when running a company or taking any other responsible position in an organisation. However, things don´t go smooth all the time, and that´s when wartime leaders come in. Ben Horowitz was CEO of a tech company during the dotcom crash and had to go public in order to avoid bankruptcy- at a time when “tech company” was synonymous to “syphilis” on the stock markets.  In other words he´s got his fair share of wartime leadership experience. Politeness and positive activation of your staff´s creative side are peacetime techniques. In wartime, they get replaced by deliberately used swearwords and sometimes even threats, a wartime technique for setting clear aims: “I don´t give a fuck how well trained you are. If you don´t bring me five hundred thousand dollars a quarter, I am putting a bullet in your head”- to quote Mark Cranney, his treasured Head of Sales.
The author thereby creates clarity in the book itself as well, which conventional textbooks could not yield: Delivering criticism should for instance not be done by using the “shit sandwich” of the well-known triad of positive-negative-positive points you raise, but plain and simple. Hard to find a crib that´s easier to remember.
An eye-opening and thoroughly readable book on how to lead in difficult situations.