Netflix CEO Reed Hastings sat down for a terrific interview with Bill Snyder of Stanford's Graduate School of Business. I found several terrific nuggets in the piece. In the first quote, Hastings makes the point that he's given people a great deal of autonomy at Netflix. However, with that autonomy comes responsibility. He has high expectations. In the second quote, he points out that the CEO does not have be the ultimate product expert. In fact, there may be a downside to that type of situation. I like the concept of a "distributed set of great thinkers." Great leaders, I believe, know how to marshal the collective intellect of an organization.
“I take pride in making as few decisions as possible, as opposed to making as many as possible,” Hastings says. One example: Netflix’s decision to produce the popular House of Cards was a huge one, but the meeting that gave the project a green light lasted just 30 minutes. Others had already laid down the groundwork and details, making it easy for Hastings to sign off. “It’s creating a sense [in your employees] that ‘If I want to make a difference, I can make a difference.’” Freedom is only one part of the Netflix culture; the other is responsibility. Netflix, says Hastings, has created a culture of high performance. “Adequate performance gets a generous severance package,” he says, adding that “we turn over a lot of people.”
Without mentioning Apple or the late CEO Steve Jobs by name, Hastings says certain companies’ conception of the top job was very different than his view. “Some companies operate by the principle of the product genius at the top,’’ Hastings says. “There’s this whole motif that to be a great CEO you have to be a great product person. That’s intoxicating and fun, but you build in incredible amounts of dependence on yourselves. You’re much stronger building a distributed set of great thinkers,” he says.