walter isaacson

The collaborating executive

I received a text a little over a week ago from a CEO I coach (I've served on his Advisory Board for years now and have loved seeing his company prosper - and him grow so much personally through a lot of adversity).  It read, "How much collaboration with the rest of leadership would you expect from your [insert executive title here] when it comes to [insert critical for the entire company task]?".  Obviously I'm being careful not to disclose the details to protect confidentiality.

Here we find ourselves on Martin Luther King Jr. Day - a celebration of one of history's ultimate collaborators and change-agents.  Everyone in American schools studies MLK, of course, but I got to go a little deeper on his leadership in my studies at The Aspen Institute as a Henry Crown Fellow.  One of our readings was "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and I couldn't recommend more highly that you read it (you can do so here).  It is one of the most amazing leadership readings I've ever been introduced to.  It is a systematic, gentlemanly takedown of one of the most challenging times in American history - by the ultimate collaborative leader.  Pay close attention in the letter to how MLK challenges his opposition to collaborate with him by looking within themselves and within their own religion.  The religious undertones are reminiscent to what is probably the best speech I've ever read, also introduced to me by The Aspen Institute, by Frederick Douglass.  It is titled "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?".  It is also a systematic takedown with a strong uppercut punch (you can read it here).  I highly recommend you study both of these incredibly historic speeches on this MLK day - the most appropriate day to do so.  At a minimum, all lovers of leadership should bookmark and read these pieces in 2018.

Investing in natural network effects in SaaS

Sometimes startups we meet with (I've personally seen over 1,000 pitches in the last two years) talk about their network effect in a hopeful way. But most of the time it is just that - hope, and hope is not a strategy. But Bazaarvoice actually has a working network effect that benefits all participants: retailers, brands that sell through those retailers, consumers that shop at those brands and retailers, and Bazaarvoice and some of its partners. In other words, the more participants that are on the Bazaarvoice network, the great the effect of that network for the benefit of all. I wrote about this in detail in my first annual shareholders letter after Bazaarvoice became a public company.