Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unusually Excellent: Skills Required for Leadership

Tony Zingale, CEO of Jive Software, recently sent me a copy of John Hamm's Unusually Excellent; The Necessary Nine Skills Required for the Practice of Great Leadership.

Hamm breaks the nine skills into three core segments:

  1. Credibility, or a matter of character
    1. Authentic
    2. Trustworthy
    3. Compelling
  2. Competence, or a matter of skill
    1. People
    2. Strategy
    3. Execution
  3. Consequence, or a matter of values
    1. Decision making
    2. Communication
    3. Impact
The book reminds me a great deal of Bill George's work. George is currently an HBS Professor and served as the long-time CEO of Medtronic. George wrote two wonderful books on leadership. You can follow Bill George on Twitter here

George's central argument is that mission-driven, rather than profit-driven companies, generate greater shareholder returns. Moreover, mission-driven companies require leaders with a True North, ie a moral compass/center of gravity that anchors not only the leader, but also the company. Hamm extends that concept and underscores the value of authenticity to leadership.

The moral compass proves its value in times of stress and ambiguity - it is the spirit of the law, not the letter that governs leaders with a True North.  As Hamm's model notes, competence is only 1/3 of the battle. Self-awareness, trust, a compass to navigate challenging decisions, the ability to share and empathize...are all EQ level traits. Pure competence, IQ, is not enough.  Lehman, Enron, AIG....all companies full of high IQ people who lost their way and operated without a compass.

My favorite book that speaks to the power of self-awareness and authenticity is Thich Nhat Hanh's The Art of Power.  Yes, a Buddhist monk wrote a book on business leadership! It is a brilliant read that reminds us not to let fear control us, not to focus on the wealth at the cost of well-being (golden handcuffs), and of the importance of living in the moment rather than in a guilt-addled past or a anxiety-laden imagined future.

The common abstraction of all these books is self-awareness. Who are you? What makes you authentically who you really are? Do you act out of fear? Do you act out of a desire to please others?

Why are you working where you work now? How did you end up here? What compromises have you made about who you really are? Are they worth it? What's stopping you from....?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Journey is the Destination

Three years ago today, I left my MD role at Hummer Winblad to join Widgetbox. While Widgetbox grew into Flite, the leader in cloud-based advertising , I too have grown in ways I could not imagine.

While a VC, I worked on a deal that focused on testing wafers. The state of the art was to test the circuitry of a quarter wafer. This new company offered the promise of a full-wafer test.

The metaphor is meaningful to me. The CEO role tests one's skills, leadership, tenacity, and self-awareness in ways not possible in other jobs. Through each test, each challenge...hidden parts of who you are, what you are made of...reveal themselves.

The last three years have tested me in ways I did not think possible. The journey of company building, restructuring, and scaling both deepen who you are, while simultaneously revealing how you react to challenge, how you exploit advantage and insight, how you handle the good, the bad, and the ambiguous.

Three amazing years. Three years of better learning who I am.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Widgetbox Raises $12m from General Catalyst, Sequoia Capital, and HWVP. Rebrands as Flite

I am thrilled to announce the close of our $12m Series C. Neil Sequeira and General Catalyst led the round, with participation from our existing investors Sequoia Capital, Hummer Winblad, and NCD Investors. In addition to the funding, we also announced a new company name, Flite.

With the rebrand we have firmly positioned ourselves as the leader in cloud-based advertising. The Flite Platform allows advertisers, agencies, and publishers to create, serve, and measure ads that are as dynamic as the Web—delivering up to a 10X increase in ROI with ads developed in 1/10th the time.

The new company rebranding and platform-as-a service approach to advertising will empower advertisers to increase brand recall and purchase intent, while allowing our publisher partners to win more business and deliver more marketing value.

In addition to the rebranding and new company name, we have launched a new interactive site www.flite.com. Here we’ve highlighted our available services, solutions, and platform features. The new site also includes case studiesinsights, and a new Ad Gallery that showcases how leading brands are using Flite to connect with consumers.

Finally, please find below coverage from of our funding and rebranding announcement.

Sequoia-Backed Widgetbox Rebrands As Flite, Raises $12M For Rich Media Ad Serving Platform
by Leena Rao

Widgetbox becomes “cloud” advertising company Flite, raises $12M
by Anthony Ha

Wall Street Journal Venture Capital Dispatch
The Daily Startup

Paid Content
Widgetbox Rebrands As Display Platform Flite, Raises $12 Million 
by David Kaplan

Widgetbox Rebrands As Flite, Lands $12 Million 
by Mark Walsh