I personally have seen in my past career, and personally experienced how simple humility is a key characteristic of leadership. This may seem counter-intuitive but it is not. People are drawn to the charisma of a leader who is also simply humble, and who appreciates the values of those he or she leads. A leader like that can get subordinates to follow them anywhere. I think there may even be an inverse relationship in human behavior between hubris, and leadership success. By that I mean that the more arrogant and overbearing a person, the more insecure he may actually be, and therefore less successful in the subjective art of leadership.

In a bizarre sequence of events this week, I have yet again witnessed someone literally self-destruct as a leader due to their failure to exhibit simple humility and to be aware of other stakeholders, whose support or not, could make or break the leader.. Successful leadership is a fragile thing, a subjective human experience. I have written about this phenomenon previously on this blog.

Most people probably have no idea who Jeanette Symons was as a person, or even her name. Yet, she became one of Silicon Valley’s most famous entrepreneurs. She tragically died in the crash of her Lear Jet with her adopted son, some years ago. She is right up there with Steve Jobs in terms of her accomplishments, her intellect, and her utterly horrible personality. I worked for Jeanette. This article from the San Francisco Chronicle is an excellent exploration of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, and the “a**hole” conundrum of their eccentricities that can also make them highly successful. There has also been a recent major controversy about SV entrepreneurs arrogance and insensitivity to others. This is definitely NOT Canadian. My fear is that Canadians are not prepared for it. My students know that I have experienced this personally in my Silicon Valley career numerous times, most notably with the late Jeanette of Ascend Communications, who was a notorious asshole like Steve Jobs. Not easy to reconcile it, other than to live with it.

As the pressure on struggling Silicon Valley companies Yahoo, and now Hewlett-Packard have increased, the pressure on telecommuting has increased. Now, Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard has joined Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer in calling HP’s telecommuting employees back to work. The problem seems to be that telecommuting employees are now being perceived like recipients of food stamps and welfare: freeloaders taking advantage of corporations, being less productive and costing corporations more than they are worth.