Crisis Leadership: Top 12 “Best Of”

April 27, 2020 § Leave a comment

As we step back and review the last 60 days of Covid and the last 30-45 day of sheltering in place (yes, it’s only been those number of days), many people have been thrust into crisis leadership.

Uniquely, during this crisis event, we’ve had to lead remotely and deliver such leadership on Zoom, Slack, Email, or even social media.

As I reflect deeply on what’s been working, what isn’t working, and what to never forget for the next leadership crisis, I began writing down my personal “Best Of’s” as I seek to memorialize and pattern match the leadership lessons I/we are all learning once again.

Always pass on what you have learned. (Yoda)

Learn the past, watch the present, create the future (Jess Conrad)

My Top 12 Crisis Leadership Lessons:

#1 Safety First: Both Physical and Mental. Closer to the Heart. Fear and fear of the unknown is one of the most powerful human emotions. Leaders must first address physical and mental safety the best they possibly can by addressing the unknown and communicating what is being done for physical safety and communicating “what is known”, “what remains unknown”, and “when we are likely to know more” to begin to address and acknowledge mental safety.

And those that hold high places
Must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality
Closer to the hear

Geddy Lee (Rush)

#2 Relationships Second. I’ve written about this before. Transparency is Required especially in times of crisis. Silence and “hiding the ball” breeds more fear. Transparency establishes and reinforces Trust. Relationships require Trust. During crisis events, we find ourselves in simultaneous states of being required to both Give and Receive. In order to do either, I’m arguing a relationship must first be established or if already established, reinforced and relied upon. Lead your relationship with transparency. Trust will follow.

I created this for one of my Leadership Presentations to 100’s of CFO’s over the course of the last 30 days. My premise? Relationships are the foundation.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care

Theodore Roosevelt

#3 Lead With Why. Once safety is addressed, and relationships are established or re-established, now it’s time to lean in and engage everyone. Lead with Why. During fear cycles, we all hear a lot of fear based questions that start with “What are you Doing!?” Instead, lead with ‘Why We Are Doing This”.

#4 Authenticity and Vulnerability Required.   Being Authentic Requires Being Vulnerable.  Being Vulnerable starts with explaining “Why”, saying “I Don’t Know” followed by “What Do You Think?”. “Why” is all about each other’s reasoning and seeking shared understandings on why decisions were made. Vulnerability is the ultimate Leadership Strength. It identifies the gap trying to be filled and encourages others to help/engage to fill the gap. It’s a super powerful to say “I/We Don’t Know” And “Here’s How We Are Thinking About It” and “How We Believe We’ll Figure This Out and When”. If you let people in, you can build a Relationship of (see #2 – Transparency and Trust)

A great example of a recent communication incorporating authenticity and vulnerability was recently published by Carta’s CEO Henry Ward with regards to layoffs the company recently announced.

#5 Find New Ways To Communicate. I’m struck by the multiple great leaders and communicators who have expressed the new lessons they are learning on Zoom communications and their surprise quality and intensity of communications remotely (over video). These leaders believed there communications would be much worse and harder. They are realizing in many cases Zoom (or Teams, or Meet, or other) is a better, more focused medium. I encourage us to continue to explore “Why” this is possible? We’ve learned these lessons in the “age of TV” and the power of the visual and verbal connection that “one at a time seeing and talking” to masses of people provides with only a screen trying to connect everyone. Great “movies” can be powerful mediums as well for the same reasons. Thinking about how to communicate differently and with all the resources you have is the lesson here. While leading on Zoom, I’ve found the need to be even more observant, to “read the room/screen” for body language or raised hands. I’ve learned to use the Chat sidebar as an advantage. To ensure all participants (or as many as possible or are comfortable) to engage. It requires an understanding of the audience, the medium you are communicating through and the strengths weaknesses of that medium.

#6 Build a Knowledge CenterA Data Center. Crowdsource the Best. In every crisis, a small set of regularly reported news and data feeds emerge. Whether it’s Elad Gil or Tomas Pueyo or 1point3acres or the Crowdsourced Public List of Complete Information, learn this lesson and establish it deeply for your next leadership routine (crisis or not). The point being that “Data and Facts Win” and “The Best Ideas Win”. Don’t just communicate “What You Know”, “What You Don’t Know”, and “When You Expect to Know” as a leader (#1 Safety) , write it down and publish it in an easily accessible, publicly shareable place (the web, public Google Doc, internal Company Wiki). Keep collecting the data as it comes in to this location. Keep sharing it. Ask everyone to comment, share what they know, and add to it. The power of a trusted data/knowledge center and the power crowdsourced engagement is the lesson here.

#7 Drive Decisions Based on the Data. Let the Knowledge/Data Center drive your decisions. Sometimes you need to act without all the required data using a leadership point of view or even your leadership opinion based on the data you have. That’s ok too. But the great news about documenting your decisions and assumptions based on what data/opinions you do have, is that you can test the assumptions/opinions as the events unfold, collect more data, and then course correct as required. This circular loop of Assumptions>Data>Decisions>Course Correct

#8 Understand that Misinformation is Rampant during Crisis Events. It’s either naive/ignorant or worse purposefully exploited to drive Fear. Fear drives bad decisions. See points #6 and #1.

#9 Engage to Win. Ask for help from everyone. Especially your family, friends, employees, investors. “What Do You Think?”, “How Can I Help?”, and “How Can You Help” are 3 very powerful questions in times of crisis.

#10 Availability>Communication>Conversation>Engagement>Trust Open doors lead to conversation. Conversation leads to Engagement. Engagement done the right way (Transparently, Authentically, and Leading with Why) establishes Trust. We’ve proven we can even do this remotely and over Zoom. We are building new muscle here.

#11 Empathy, Dignity, Integrity. I’ve found myself using Doug Leone’s (Sequoia) quote that I heard from a recent Sequoia leadership session. Reminds me so much of my personal years with Bill Campbell and the same lessons of “It’s the People” and “People will never forget how you treat them or how you made them feel”.

Be As Generous As You Can With the Constraints That You Have

Doug Leone – Sequoia

#12 There Are No Clear Playbooks during a Crisis but Plays Must Be Called. Leadership is required. Leadership requires actions/decisions. Take actions based on either data or clear points of view (opinion). # 5 and #6 on the list above. Focus on “What You/Your Team Can Control” and explicitly “What You Can’t Control”.

“And if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”

Neil Peart (Rush)
  • Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear. “As fast as you possibly can with the data you have”
  • Develop clear IF/THEN Contingency/Action Plans with clear steps (Oxygen mask first, life vest 2nd, brace for impact 3rd, then find the Exit)
  • One Size Does Not Fit All. The same ideas don’t work for everyone. Your particular situation/position could be safer or more dangerous than others situations/positions. Don’t make the fatal mistake of making your safer position more dangerous by “Doing What Everyone Else is Doing”. Don’t make your dangerous position more dangerous by not moving quickly to a more safe position by sitting still and hoping the danger passes.

The above bullets and more were from a presentation I gave to dozens of CFO’s on Zoom in multiple sessions over the last 30 days that I embedded here for easier access.

Today’s Blog post and “Best Of” list was developed as I woke up a few days ago trying to encapsulate the lessons we are learning during this crisis. I’ve routinely collected “Best Ofs” over 30+ yrs in Silicon Valley and over 3+ similar macro-economic crisis cycles and dozens of micro-crisis cycles where I sat in various Leadership positions.    Clearly, I’ve been also taking the opportunity during these WFH weeks to listen to my “Best Of” background music (Rush) and the song lyrics influence may have contributed.

Many of my colleagues and current and former teammates, friends and family who are reading this were with me during these events and I encourage each of you to comment, add your own “Best Of” that I missed, and to certainly engage so collectively we can….

“Transmit Our Knowledge to those that Follow….Greater than it was Transmitted to Us”

(modified from Phi Delta Theta motto; also adapted as “Pay It Forward”)

Strategic Financial Leadership During Crisis

April 4, 2020 § Leave a comment

A Zoom preso I created and moderated to several groups over the last 7 days. Time to share it more broadly

Seek Go Create

January 31, 2020 § 1 Comment

A great friend, Tim Winders, has started a great podcast called “Seek Go Create”. Our conversation can be found at the link below. He begins with asking me about the new book “That Will Never Work” (Netflix founding story) and he masterfully helps me share my Silicon Valley experience over the last 30 years with a focus on topics such as “Risk Culture”, the Silicon Valley “underbelly”, my time at Mozilla, and ending with some of my thoughts on Leadership, Teams, Integrity and Trust.

Spotify Podcast:

Apple Podcast

TuneIn Radio: 

Maybe a good “listen” on your next commute?  or simply save it in your podcast library and come back to it.

Best of Mozilla

June 30, 2018 § 1 Comment

As I depart Mozilla in 2018, I arrive at yet another inflection point in Mozilla’s history.

Mozilla is an incredible success story. From $0 in revenue and cash 15 years ago to $500M in both revenue and assets in the latest published annual report(s). From Mitchell’s Vision and Manifesto in the early 2000’s to the launch of Firefox 1.0 in November, 2004,  Firefox and everything Mozilla stands for has made an impact on the world.

We “Took Back the Web” in 2005 with only a few thousand square feet of space and now have multiple international Mozilla offices with over 1,100 employed Mozillians and thousands of additional open source contributors.

It’s been a privilege to have played a part in scaling Mozilla from this 18 person startup to the multi-national, top brand organization we are today. We made an impact on the industry and we continue to be a powerful voice for the web, the technology industry, and operating as a developer community.

Mozilla is one of those rare special places where you simultaneously seek to change the world and, by doing so, Mozilla changes you.

Mozilla taught me the true meaning of “Open” and how to lead powerfully with both Trust and Transparency. I’ve done my very best to coach/teach other Mozillians these key learning’s and to continuously design these key principles into Mozilla’s “internal operating systems”.

There are too many friends and teammates and Mozillians worldwide to thank who won’t see me as often in the offices but who I’ll still be hanging out with on the web and social media sites.

In the end, the only thing that matters is we connected with each other, learned from each other, and we made a difference. We learned to trust each other by operating transparently and in turn we learned how a small army of awesome Mozillians could leverage and compete with tech giants.

There are so too many stories and so many memories with so many people. The best I can do to convey my experience is to offer a sampling of my “Best Of” in the form of  what everyone loves these days “Videos on the Web”!

In no particular order and with 100% certainty I’ve missed some important “moments in time”, I offer you my take on “Mozilla’s Best of Vdieos” along with some historical and important blogposts from Mozilla leaders in an attempt to capture and share Mozilla’s amazing history over the last 10+ yrs.

There’s a lot below and it may all be tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) for you.  If that’s you, then at least BOOKMARK these links in Firefox or for bonus points SAVE the links to Pocket and Share!
Thank you Mozilla and all Mozillians!

MOZILLA’s BEST OF (Greatest Hits)

History of Mozilla

Chris Beard’s Mozilla Firefox Brand Manifesto:  We Answer To No One But You!: 

Quick Mozilla Firefox Videos:



THE WEB WE WANT:  An Open Letter

Seniors React to Firefox Data Privacy




Johnathan Nightingale on Firefox (2013)

BONUS CUT:  Making Espresso at Mozilla:

Creating the Firefox Monument: 2014

New Firefox Quantum:  (2017)


Mitchell Baker’s Blog: 

John Lilly: 

Denelle Dixon: Online Privacy  

Harvey Anderson: Health of the Web: 

Mark Surman:

Deb Cohen:

Laura Thomson:


Annual Report – State of Mozilla 2016:

IRL:  Internet in Real Life Podcast:

StoryTelling: Change Your Lens – Change Your Life

May 1, 2018 § Leave a comment

“Our Vision Controls Our Perception.  Our Perception Becomes Our Reality”

“There’s More Than One Right Answer”

“There’s Far More Right With the World Than What’s Wrong With It”

“Extraordinary Visions Release Passion”

“I Saw An Angel In The Stone and Carved To Set It Free” – MichelAngelo

Dewitt Jones is great.   A great storyteller with a great message and great photos!


p.s. – Don’t forget to bring your “juice camera”!


April 22, 2018 § Leave a comment

When you are 92 and you have life experiences like Brother David Steindl-Rast, I always listen.

A simple and wonderful message on a Sunday.

* “It is not happiness that makes us grateful…….it’s gratefulness that makes you happy”

* Stop, Look, Listen, GO!

If you liked that 2007 video, he updated it in 2017.

Same message but worth watching again!

Connection is the New Currency

March 30, 2018 § Leave a comment

In this post, the focus is on Trust, Transparency, Leadership, Storytelling, and how all these concepts interlink:

Trust and Permission

“We seek out people who tell us stories that resonate, we listen to those stories, and we engage with those people or businesses that delight or reassure or surprise in a positive way. And all of those behaviors are the acts of people, not machines. We embrace the humanity in those around us, particularly as the rest of the world appears to become less human and more cold.


“Management is almost diametrically opposed to leadership

Leadership, though, is a whole other game. Leadership puts the leader on the line. No manual, no rule book, no überleader to point the finger at when things go wrong. If you ask someone for the rule  book on how to lead, you’re secretly wishing to be a manager.

Leaders are vulnerable, not controlling, and they are racing to the top, taking us to a new place, not to the place of cheap, fast, compliant safety.”


“After trust is earned and your work is seen, only a fraction of it is magical enough to be worth spreading. Again, this magic is the work of the human artist, not the corporate machine. We’re no longer interested in average stuff for average people.”


“the people you seek to lead, the people who are helping to define the next thing and the interesting frontier, these people want your humanity..”

This was all taken from the following:  I thought

A Long Article – Worth the Read

A Ritual To Read To Each Other…..

April 4, 2014 § 2 Comments

A poem…begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment.

A complete poem is one where an emotion finds the thought and the thought finds the words.   Robert Frost letter to Louis Untermeyer (1916).

A Ritual To Read To Each Other

by William Stafford

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Star Splitter

by Robert Frost
But the first thing next morning we reflected
If one by one we counted people out
For the least sin, it wouldn’t take us long
To get so we had no one left to live with.
For to be social is to be forgiving.

As we end this week, Mozilla arrives at yet another inflection point in our history.  Many have already offered their views and insights on our leadership changes recently.   Like Here:  Mozilla Is Human

The best I can offer is to try to help everyone remember Mozilla’s roots and to remind everyone that a company builds its culture everyday. Mozilla has always built our culture the way we build our software – open source and transparently (view source).

From John Liilly’s Poetry and Pragmatics and Glass House

to Deb Cohen’s Holding Space and Finding My Own

to Reid’s reminder today to “Let’s not waste a good crisis”.

Now is the time to double down on everything that’s great about Mozilla.
Now, more than ever, is the time to show the world WHO Mozilla is, WHY we exist, and HOW we operate. Now is the time to lean in hard.

As Churchill said,“If you are going through hell, keep going”.  Or you may prefer Robert Frost version “the best way out is always through”.

I’ll end with more of a list from the top of my head.  A running list of the values and behaviors that have created Mozilla’s culture over time:  (you can add your own in the comments)

“It’s the People”:  People create culture from a shared purpose, values and behaviors.  Mozilla creates space for people’s “best of”.   This environment in turn attracts more talent and the upward spiral of knowing more, doing more, and being better.

Operating Openly:  Minimum Requirements
Leading with Respect
Having an Opinion
Sharing It
Listening for the Best Idea
Being Accountable
Learning a lot
Teaching a little

“You’re Right” are 2 very powerful words
Let’s Fix It are 3 words that should follow

Behaviors Required?
Personal Authenticity…it’s ok to be vulnerable.  It’s ok to say you don’t know.  It’s important to say “we’ll figure it out together”
Modeling Accountability
Ferocious Integrity
Capacity and Willingness to Connect with Others Deeply.
Trust requires Transparency
Being an Empathetic Ambivert (as in ambidextrous to both extroverts and introverts)
Showing Up, Digging In, and Being Yourself.

On Leadership:
LEADERSHIP is not a title and it’s not management it’s a BEHAVIOR….anyone can exhibit it.
We model courage or cowardice and leadership everyday.
Every time we show up and/or FAIL to show up.
Every time we use our voice.

On Culture
I’m looking at the Culture when I’m looking at YOU (and your behaviors)
You Are the Culture (in the way you show up)
I am the Culture
We are the Culture

Please turn to the Mozillian next to you…and let’s begin again.

Mozilla Talks (Best Of): Minimum Viable Bureaucracy

January 28, 2014 § 4 Comments

Listen to Laura Thomson @lxt, Sr Web Engineering Mgr,  describe Mozilla’s “MVP”  Minimum Viable Bureaucracy.   We do this not only in Engineering but everywhere inside Mozilla (especially Finance and Operations).

Best of Quotes from this Minimum Viable Bureaucracy talk:

The basis of any self-organizing system = TRUST

Awesome communication processes require practice

Every project should have a URL

Let subject matter experts emerge (module owner or Benevolent Dictator For Life)

A 1 person = 2 day marathon Prototype + Momentum gets people motivated and makes the PATH clear

Iterate toward greatness

Ruthless murder scope creep   “Not in This Iteration”.   NO! ….. is a complete sentence.

There is no such thing as a structureless organization  (there is somebody at the end of the day organizing “stuff”)

Knowing how to work hard is a skill some people have never learned (especially if they are incredibly smart and have intellectually cruised through life)

In this talk, you’ll hear Laura reference several other current and former thought leaders at Mozilla.

This talk appeared at OSCON 2013 and the slide deck has garnered some attention, but the talk was not recorded, so as per requests, Laura re-delivers it on Air Mozilla as a brownbag.

For more of Laura: < you’ll find all her slide decks here.

Other talks referenced by Laura:    John O’Duinn’s “We Are All Remoties”  >

John Lilly’s Preso on Mozilla and Managing Chaos

30th Anniversary of Mac Computer

January 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

On this 30th Year anniversary of the Mac, the Computer History Museum released an Exclusive (Unseen since 1984) ;  the original Steve Jobs Public unveiling of the Macintosh Computer.   Interesting and fascinating on so many levels from the only seen once on public television classic Orwellian commercial to Steve’s still developing and now famous presentation skills.

For you computer history and tech buffs, the specs (minute 6)

  • $2,495
  • “LISA” Technology (mice, point, click, cut, paste, windows)
  • 68,000 CPU running at 8 Mhz that “eats 8088’s for breakfast”
  • 192K bytes of memory! 64K of these bytes are ROM and an amazing 128K bytes are RAM!
  • Inside the 64K ROM is the entire OS!  Entire graphics, entire Windows user interface – All in ROM!
  • Introduction of breakthrough 3.5 inch floppy disk with 400K bytes!
  • A super high definition, high resolution 9″ bitmapped black and white screen! (Twice the dots of an IBM PC or and Apple II)
  • Took 2 years to make it.

Don’t miss minute 9 with the classic Chariots of Fire video debut!

Some interesting quotes”We want to make Macintosh the 2nd Desk Appliance” (1st = Telephone)

“The last thing the world needs is another Local Area Network” (Ethernet really never took off)

“Lotus has announced 123 for the Macintosh and it’s in their development labs now”

Apple’s First Public Demo of the Mac in 1984

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