2007-2022 was a rising tide for all of Big Tech. Money was cheap, lots of fruits were hanging low, and too many individuals attributed to personal brilliance what should have been attributed to just plain luck and timing. Many leaders have likely never faced the current economic situation in their careers - what Ben Horowitz calls “peacetime CEOs”. It’ll be interesting to see their actions, now that the industry seems to be regressing to the mean.
I’ll venture a guess here. Leaders who believe that their personal brilliance is what took the company to its heights (a la Elon) may try to apply that so-called brilliance to “solve” the problem of a tightening economy and stagnant stock price. You’d see the kind of iffy mandate-driven decisions that we’ve seen in the past few months. On the other hand, leaders who have the humility to say that it was the collective brilliance and efforts of thousands/millions of people who took the company to its heights, may give their people more autonomy, more decision-making power. I’m curious to see which kind of leaders emerge the victors out of this situation.
What I had hoped not to see from our tech leaders (but it happened anyway) was the same excuses that Wall Street bankers gave after the 2007 crash. The bankers attributed the financial crisis to “market forces” and “macroeconomic conditions”, completely denying any personal responsibility. Well, by that same argument, none of the stock market riches of 2001-2006 (that they got fat bonuses for) were due to their talent either, were they? They privatized the profits and socialized the losses. In our industry too, it was all “visionary leadership” (and the accompanying big bonuses) when the tide was rising, and “macroeconomic conditions” (and layoffs) when the tide went out. Irrational exuberance (and panic) are a human thing, but it’s worth remembering that anyone who recommended caution during the good times was probably dinged for thinking too small. There are no points now to them for being right; and no consequences for those who were wrong.