Netflix CEO Reed Hastings learned an important lesson when he caught his former boss washing his dirty coffee mugs

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings might look the part of a CEO now, but back when he first graduated from Stanford grad school in computer science, he was the typical messy computer programmer. While working at a startup for two years, he says his desk was strewn with old disgusting coffee mugs, which would sometimes mysteriously clean themselves.

Except they didn’t.

One time he got into work early and saw the CEO of the company cleaning his coffee mug in the bathroom.

“Have you been cleaning my mugs all year?” he asked. His boss said he had, and Hastings asked why. His CEO’s response taught him an important lesson about leadership.

“It was the one thing I could do for you.” his CEO told him. “You do so much for the company.”

Hastings said after that he would pretty much follow that guy off the ends of the earth, which is exactly where he led the company.

The second lesson Hastings learned was that there are two parts of leadership: personal character, the endearing part, but also the strategic part. You have to have both, and you have to learn.

Hastings shares this and other important lessons in the video below, as well as sharing a bit about Netflix’s bitter fight with Blockbuster. “From the day we started we knew DVD was going to die,” he says.

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