I was reading MG Siegler’s blog parislemon (as an aside, parislemon is one of my favorite blogs) and I happened upon his post entitled Limbs Are Replaceable, Heads Are Not. I followed the post to Michael Arrington’s blog Uncrunched, specifically the Why Heather Matters. Essentially, Heather Harde was the CEO of TechCrunch, one of AOL’s most successful businesses. It appears Heather was run out of town by Arianna Huffington, which I find interesting. Mike breaks down the behind-the-scenes politicking in his post, but it appears that Huffington felt threatened by Heather’s success at TechCrunch.
Why do people feel threatened by the success of their peers? Undoubtedly, jealousy contributes to the equation. Individuals like to be the center of attention. Arianna Huffington, apparently, wanted to be AOL’s diva and did not want to share the limelight with a technology blogging upstart. AOL gave in to Huffington when she strong-armed Heather out of AOL. I understand the motives behind this mentality, but I philosophically disagree with selfishness. If I were AOL I would reprimand Huffington for driving away some of the most innovative and driven individuals in the industry, let alone the organization.
AOL’s management needed to put Huffington in her place. Huffington is acting like the CEO of AOL, making huge decisions that impact the profitability of one of AOL’s most successful businesses.
This brings me to my main point. The best leaders distinguish themselves from the crowd by making tough, often unpopular decisions for the good of the whole. I base this claim off conventional logic (please point out flaws in my argument, as appropriate). If a decision from the top alienates (in AOL’s case, pisses off) a subordinate, but causes the business as a whole to greatly benefit, the greater good should outweigh one individual’s ego. TechCrunch should have been rewarded, but instead it was neutered. True leaders stand up to subordinates who are operating against the interests of the organization as a whole. AOL failed to protect TechCrunch, instead siding with Huffington. I find it sad that self-interest is prioritized over financial success and innovation.
Peel back the veneer of self-gain. See success as more than individual accolades. See success as the product of creative freedom and hard work.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Heather Harde — my boss for the past three years or so — has quit AOL. There’s not much more to say beyond what Mike already has. This is just really sad — sad because it never should have gone down this way.
Heather was far and away the best boss I ever…
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