How to become a leader

Original author: Ben Horowitz
  • Transfer

We at Alconost are very fond of well-composed thought in good presentation. That is how Ben Horowitz writes , in the distant past he was an ordinary programmer, and today he is a co-founder of one of the most successful global venture funds. In his spare time from investing, Ben shares all the acquired knowledge on his blog. We cannot be silent. Impressed and translated one of his posts, he is very good and useful.

Managers, fly on!

“She has a big ass,
I call her Big Ass”
- 2 Chainz, Birthday Song

My friend once asked me: “Are they born or become leaders?” I replied: “It's as if you asked where the sweets come from: they grow themselves or someone makes them. Managing people is an extremely unnatural job. ” As soon as I finished the phrase, I noticed sincere surprise on the face of my friend and suspected that maybe everything was really not as obvious as it always seemed to me.

Thinking more, I realized that in fact most people are convinced of the opposite - that they are born leaders, not become. I often witness the same situation when investors and board members rally evaluate the founder and conclude: he is stuck together “not from the director’s test”. I do not quite understand how they determine this so quickly. It usually takes years for a person to develop managerial skills, and determining in advance whether he will succeed, as for me, is extremely difficult.

Some of the disciplines of athletics, such as sprint, can be mastered relatively quickly, because they are associated with the improvement of natural movements. It takes much more time to master others, say, boxing, because you have to memorize a lot of unnatural things. For example, to move back, you must first rearrange the hind leg; an attempt to simply step back with the front foot, as with natural walking, will end with a knockout if the opponent at this moment strikes. It takes a long practice to learn how to perform such an unnatural step naturally. The same thing happens in management: using natural methods and approaches, you risk finding yourself on the floor unconscious.

To lead, you need to do a lot of unnatural things. From an anthropological point of view, attempts to please other people are natural - this increases the chances of survival. But to become a successful leader - and people like for a long time - you will have to do something that will upset them in the short term. Unnatural things.

Even the simplest actions at first will seem unnatural. After all, if a friend tells you a funny story, it will be very strange to pay attention to his presentation skills first. A comment like: “Well, disgusting. This story has a certain potential, but you didn’t start in the best way, but in the end you carried complete nonsense. “I think you should still work on this story, revise the feed and submit it again to me tomorrow.” Such an act would hardly be perceived as normal, but this is exactly what the leader should do: evaluate the presentation qualities of people and constantly give them feedback. If you don’t do this, then it’s more difficult with tasks - reviewing, conquering the territory, defining policies,

Maintaining feedback is one of the unnatural atomic components of a whole management complex of unnatural skills. But how to master the unnatural?

Sandwich with shit

In the terminology of experienced managers, a popular and sometimes effective technique for maintaining feedback for beginners is called a “crap sandwich.” She is beautifully described in the classic managerial text, The One Minute Manager . The main idea is that people take feedback much more willingly if you start with praise (this is the bottom piece of bread), then go to unpleasant things (a layer of crap) and cover it all with a reminder that you really appreciate the strengths of each person (top piece of bread). Such a sandwich also has a positive side effect: feedback turns out to be aimed more at behavior than at personality, since you especially emphasize the value of personal qualities of employees. This is the foundation of feedback.

The shit sandwich method may work when communicating with younger employees, but has its drawbacks:

  • Often he is overly formal. You have to plan the sandwich in advance so that it develops as it should, and therefore the process may seem formal and judgmental to your subordinates.
  • It is disposable. Apply it several times and it will stop working. Subordinates will think: "Well, it has begun ... He praises me - that means, after that he will throw me out in the mud."
  • Higher-ranking employees usually recognize this method “from the first notes,” and a shit sandwich starts working against you.

In my practice, there was a case when I tried to feed a carefully prepared sandwich with crap to a senior employee. He looked at me like a child, and interrupted: "Deliver me from these pleasantries, Ben, and just tell me what I did wrong." At that moment I was more than ever sure that I was deprived of a managerial gift by birth.


To become a feedback master, you need to rise above basic techniques like a shit sandwich. You need to develop your own style that matches your personality and your values. And here is how to do it:

  • Be yourself. It is imperative that you believe what you say to people, and not just manipulate their feelings with memorized words. If you try to artificially create such an impression - people will definitely feel the falsity, no matter how skillfully you play.
  • Come in from the right side. You give people feedback because you want them to succeed, and not out of a desire to criticize them and push them to failure. If you really want someone to succeed, let them feel it. Reveal your sincere intention. If a person feels it - feels that you are on his side - he will listen to you.
  • Do not go to the personal level. If you decide to fire someone, fire him. Do not try to prepare a person for dismissal. Prepare it for success. If he does not perceive feedback, this is a completely different conversation.
  • Do not humiliate people in front of colleagues. In cases where it is better to give feedback directly to a group of employees, try not to embarrass any of them in the presence of colleagues. If this still happened, the main effect of your feedback will be that a) an employee who finds himself in an unpleasant situation will be very uncomfortable, and b) he will hate you for this.
  • Do not invent a universal feedback method, it is not. All people are different. Some employees are very sensitive to comments, while others are exceptionally thick-skinned, and breaking into the heads of the latter is often not possible at all. Your tone in communication with the employee should depend on the characteristics of his personality, and not on your mood.
  • Speak directly as you are, but don't be insensitive. If you think that the presentation is no good, don’t say: “Everything is very good, but one more approach could be used to support the conclusion.” Even if it seems unnecessarily tough, it’s better to say: “I still don’t understand what you wanted to say, and this is why ...” Blurred feedback can serve a worse service than its absence, as it misleads the employee and confuses him. But do not overdo it with harsh statements! Do not flog and demonstrate your superiority, otherwise fail the whole undertaking. Properly built feedback is a dialogue, not a monologue.

Why dialogue?

Even if you, as leaders, talk about something that you don’t like or disagree with, this does not mean that you are right. Your subordinates are probably better than you understand their business. They have clearly more data. You may be wrong.

It turns out that you should be interested in the fact that feedback opens, not closes the discussion. Encourage challenging your own opinions and advocating alternative points of view. Strive for carefully thought out, verified, balanced decisions. Stimulate discussion and demand the highest quality judgments, but stay open so you can spot your wrong in time.

Non-stop feedback

Once you have mastered the basics, you need to practice them continuously. As a leader, you should have your own opinion on absolutely everything. You should have an opinion about every forecast, every product plan, every presentation and even every comment. People need to know what you think. If you like someone's comment, let him know. If you do not agree with the employee, provide feedback. Tell me what you think about this. Express your opinion.

In this way, two critical effects are achieved:

  • Feedback in your company will not be focused on the individual. If the leader provides constant feedback, everyone just gets used to it. No one thinks: “Damn, what did he want to say with this remark? Does he not like me? ” Everyone naturally focuses on tasks, and not on inarticulate random evaluations of their implementation.
  • People will be comfortable discussing bad news. When employees can calmly discuss with each other what they are doing wrong, then it will become very easy to talk about what wrong steps the organization is taking. In companies with a high culture, bad news spreads lightning fast, good news slower. In companies with a low culture, the opposite is true: people behave there like the wicked sorceress of Gingham from the “Wizard of the Emerald City” who did not want to hear any bad news at all.

This is how leaders are born

To successfully manage, you need to master many more complex skills (I wrote about many of them in the blog), but to feel that you were born leaders, you need to master the unnatural.

If you are a leader who feels uncertainty and lack of competence in performing any of the above-mentioned actions, convinced that all this will not work when your company grows to one hundred or thousand people, then welcome to the club. I was just like you. And exactly the same was every leader I had ever met. This is a process. That is how leaders are born.

Ben Horowitz is one of the world's largest “superangel” investors who invest in cutting-edge Internet startups. The company Andreessen Horowitz, founded by him in partnership with Mark Andressen, by the beginning of 2011 became the first venture capital fund holding shares in all four of the most expensive social media companies - Facebook, Groupon, Twitter and Zynga. The fund also invested in Skype, Digg, Airbnb, Foursquare and many other Internet projects. Starting in 2009 with an initial capital of $ 300 million, today the company has 2.5 billion.

About the translator

Translation of the article was done in Alconost.

Alconost localizes applications, games and sites in 60 languages. Native translators, linguistic testing, cloud platform with API, continuous localization, project managers 24/7, any format of string resources.

We also doadvertising and training videos - for sites that sell, image, advertising, training, teasers, explainers, trailers for Google Play and the App Store.

Read more:

Also popular now: