Reid Hoffman imagines an organization as a group of people on a giant boat. Leadership is all about getting all of those people to row at the same time and in the same direction.
When everyone is rowing:
Everyone knows the job they’re supposed to do.
Everyone knows which way is forward.
Everyone knows that their contribution counts.
This isn’t just some break-room poster fluff. Take it from a guy whose job was described as the “Chief-Fire-Fighter” at PayPal in its early days. Hoffman encountered a lot of broken oars, confused rowers, and choppy waters as they expanded. The faster growing the organization, the harder it is to get everyone coordinated. It’s a wonder any business ever survives scaling.
In the short-term, an ocean current can mask actual work, problems can be ignored, and people can coast in their roles. In the long-term, there’s only one way to make real progress, and that’s to lead everybody on a unified mission. What we do, how we do it, and why we do it – it all matters. The story that gets everyone’s paddle in the water and moving at the same time is priceless. Figuring out how to tell it is worth the investment.
Check out the two-part series on the “Masters of Scale” podcast to hear Hoffman tell his whole story. Anyone interested in growing a business and leading an organization as it scales can learn a lot from him.