A brief anecdote about a good leader

November 7, 2021

A lifetime ago, I worked on products at an early stage startup. One of these was an offering for live chat agents, the people who you message in the chat bubbles that pop up on web pages.

My team was a few weeks from launching a prototype with our first customer, and we presented our progress at a company all-hands. During that meeting, a coworker suggested that we go to the customer’s website and send a message to one of the chat agents live to show everyone how such a system usually works.

One of the co-founders immediately shot the idea down. “How would you like it if someone showed up unannounced and interrupted your work?”

What I like most about the co-founder’s response is that he went straight for the moral reason. He didn’t say it could be bad for the business (it probably wouldn’t have been). To him, the biggest issue is that it wasn’t considerate – we shouldn’t waste a chat agent’s time.

I still think about this brief exchange. When I left that company, I had an exit interview with that co-founder where I mentioned how much of an impression his response made on me. He didn’t remember it at all, even after I recounted it in detail. I realized his response was just a reflex for him, and I think that’s more evidence of his integrity.

This is the kind of person I want to work for or with: ethical and conscientious without even having to try.