Leadership and Self Care

I saw this tweetstorm by Jack Dorsey on Saturday evening and thought “Good, Jack is taking care of himself.”

I guess I was the only one who reacted that way given the amount of abuse and vitriol that has been thrown at him on and off Twitter for that tweetstorm.

I understand the frustration that users feel about the things that don’t work right on Twitter, particularly the abuse and hate and the other unpleasant stuff that the Twitter platform attracts, including our horrible President and his nonsense.

I also understand that the country Jack visited and made a number of positive comments about, including suggesting that others visit there, is a place where the government and military has done all sorts of bad things, including genocide.

Certainly the comments that Jack’s tweetstorm was “tone deaf” are accurate.

But I would like to take the other side of the argument here and make a few important points.

Say what you want about Jack Dorsey, he came up with the ideas for two hugely impactful products that I use every day and many others do too. Those products are Twitter and Square.

Not only did he come up with the ideas for those products, he has breathed life into them with his work and his passion and they are two of the best products brought to market by the tech sector in the last decade.

Jack is not a conventional CEO. He does “run” two companies. But he has very strong teams who operate both companies underneath his leadership.

And since he came back to Twitter full time in the summer of 2015, Twitter has slowly but surely addressed much of what was ailing it. The stock has doubled in the last 18 months and user growth has stabilized. And, most importantly, the company is addressing many of the most troubling aspects of the service, certainly not as quickly as its critics would like, but the service is undeniably dealing with the abuse issues more seriously than it has in the past.

Square is a company that Jack has run since day one. And as Jack tweeted out the other day, the Square cash app is doing great.

And here is Square’s stock price since going public:

Even with the recent pullback, Square is up 5x since its IPO in late 2015.

So, it’s not like Jack hasn’t been doing his job. He is leading not one, but two companies, and from the outside, I would argue that he is doing a pretty solid job at that.

I am not on the inside at either Twitter or Square, so I don’t really know how things are going at these companies, but from where I sit, I would say he’s doing well.

So, with all of that backdrop, I want to make a point about the toll leadership takes on someone and the need for self care, particularly in high stress jobs like running public companies.

Leadership is a burden. You are the one everyone looks to for inspiration and direction. The things that land on your desk are the things that nobody else wanted to or could deal with. Leadership is lonely, stressful, and takes a toll on people.

Just take a look at the faces of every President on the day they took the job and the day they left the job. You will see the burden and toll of leadership right there.

And so, it is very important for leaders to take care of themselves. That can take many forms, but here are some things that I recommend to the leaders I work with (in no particular order):

  • Vacations
  • Sabbaticals
  • Eating Healthy
  • Drinking Less
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Coaching
  • Working On Your Marriage
  • Spending Quality Time With Your Family

And yet, for some reason, we criticize our leaders for doing these things. Like taking a vacation, or doing a workout, or going on a meditation retreat is some abandonment of their duties.

I think it is exactly the opposite. It is their duty to take care of themselves. Because if they don’t take care of themselves, they can’t take care of their companies and all the stakeholders who rely on them.

I am glad Jack went on a meditation retreat. I am glad he is taking care of himself. I understand why that tweetstorm was tone deaf, but let’s not get carried away here. Leaders are humans too. Let’s be decent humans to them.

Disclosure: My wife and I own shares in Twitter and I was on Twitter’s board a decade ago.