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Build a leadership culture

When we are at our best at Red Hat, we have a leadership culture instead of a management culture.

What’s the difference? My favorite example of understanding the difference is from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink.

blinkquote2The story is about US General Paul Van Riper, who is trying out some military strategies to see how they will work in the field. In the book he says:

“The first thing I told my staff is that we would be in command and out of control.”

Most companies have a culture of management. The people in charge are in command and in control of everything. Managers give the orders, decide the strategy, and the workers follow the orders, implement the strategies. This is the way 90+% of businesses work and have worked for a very long time. It’s a good model for lots of businesses. Keeps things running efficiently, keeps chaos in check.

This model does not work very well in an open source world. Why? A couple of key reasons: Continue reading

Get the organization aligned

When I first arrived at Red Hat in 1999, I have to say I didn’t get the warmest welcome in the world. After all, I’d just joined Red Hat from IBM, which many earlier Red Hat folks viewed as exactly the kind of corporate culture they were trying to escape. I think IBM is a great company, but it certainly didn’t define me either, so I was a little surprised the first time someone came up to me and said, “Don’t worry, you’ll drink the Kool-Aid soon enough.”

kool-aidNow I knew where this idea came from. But I kind of thought I had already drunk the Kool-Aid– that’s why I left the security of IBM to join this crazy company after all. What I learned over the next few years is that everyone tastes the Kool-Aid a little differently. Red Hat meant very different things to different people, even if they all thought they were drinking the same Kool-Aid. I learned what I didn’t know very quickly… but I learned it on my own.

So how do you make it easier for everyone you employ to have a shared vision of what the company hopes to accomplish? How to do you ensure that everyone in the organization is aligned (and excited!) about a common cause? Continue reading

Truth Happens

One day in 2003, Matthew Szulik came to us and said he wanted to create a video to show before his keynote at Linuxworld. Now no one in our group had ever done a video before, but we figured we’d take a shot. My good friend David Burney had just hired a guy right out of college into his design firm (his name was Tim Kiernan, one of the most talented guys I have ever worked with) who specialized in video/film, so we got to work. If I remember correctly, we produced the entire thing from beginning to end in about a month. Originally, we only planned to show the video once, at the keynote.

Continue reading

Give me something to believe in

I’m a dreamer.

I am inspired by ideas.

In Myers-Briggs language, I am an INFP. It’s a pretty rare Myers-Briggs type, but some other famous INFPs are Shakespeare, Yeats, Helen Keller, Princess Diana, Tom Brokaw, JFK Jr., Julia Roberts, and Homer (the Greek, not the Simpson). We share a lot in common with ENFPs, the only difference being that they are extroverts (the E) vs. introverts (the I). The most famous ENFP of the moment is none other than President Barack Obama.jfkmanonmoon

As it turns out even though INFPs (1%) and ENFPs (5%) together make up only a very small percentage of the general population, I’ve found in my time at Red Hat that I’ve run into more than my share of dreamers (INFP) and visionaries (ENFP). Continue reading

The open source way

At heart, Red Hat is an open source company.

Now that will either mean something to you or it won’t. If you aren’t familiar with open source, there are plenty of good sites that will teach you better than I will.

osway1If you are familiar with open source, you are probably also familiar with some of the key concepts. I try not to be too precise about defining open source. To me, it is basically a DNA soup of related ideas which, when put together, make up the open source way. It is almost like a cultural map for a way of working and operating. Continue reading


Only about 4% of the total energy density in the universe can be seen directly.
About 96% is thought to be composed of dark matter or dark energy.

July 2009: See my update on the topics covered in this post here.

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of dark matter for a while. But it was actually hearing about this thing called the Large Hadron Collider that helped me make the connection between what I do for a living and this concept of dark matter.

largehadronThe Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest particle accelerator. It was built on the border of France and Switzerland and is about 17 miles long. One of the things that particle physicists hope to prove with this enormous project is that dark matter actually exists. As I understand it, the accelerator shoots protons at super high speeds around the collider, and, if these scientists are lucky, it eventually might produce a few wacky particles that will exist for only a few milliseconds and then disappear again. And these particles might prove that dark matter isn’t just a theory. Continue reading

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