Netflix CEO Reed Hastings explains why he was initially an ineffective leader at his first company

The first company Netflix CEO Reed Hastings founded was successfully acquired in 1997, but that doesn’t mean Hastings was a good CEO out of the gate. In fact, Hastings is first to admit that as a leader and a manager, he wasn’t very effective.

“We grew very quickly, but very chaotically, and I always felt like I was half up water,” Hastings said at The New Yorker’s TechFest on Friday. “I was not doing a very good job as a manager.”

The reason, according to Hastings, was a lack of honesty.

“I was uncomfortable about being honest with people so I valued kindness very high, and consideration,” he said. “And that’s a good value too, but honesty is really important at work … I’d be frustrated with you but I wouldn’t really tell you, but it would, of course, manifest itself, and it took me a long time to have the courage both to be able to be an example of honesty myself to receive it.”

Hastings attributes this to his inexperience. “I had never led anything when I started the company,” he explained.

The culture Hastings has helped create at Netflix is totally different. Netflix has become famous in Silicon Valley for its unique company culture, which does not tolerate either failing employees or brilliant jerks. It preaches freedom coupled with responsibility, and is definitely an honest culture.

Netflix doesn’t shy from from cutting away the dead weight. “If you’re not working out for whatever reason, there’s no reason to keep you,” a Netflix employee wrote in a recent Reddit AMA. Netflix doesn’t stand on ceremony.

This culture was outlined in a famous 2009 slide deck by CEO Reed Hastings that summarized Netflix’s management philosophy.

If you want to take a look at Reed Hastings’ famous 2009 slide deck, scroll down:

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