“Perception is reality.
Even when it’s not reality.”
– Edward de Bono
It was amazing news last week when it was revealed that the founder and CEO of the innovative co-working company, Adam Neumann, had been fired by his board.
His fall publicly started on the 14th August when WeWork released their jaw dropping IPO prospectus which attempted to value the organisation at $65 Billion.
But things started to unravel as investors dug deeper. WeWork have $47 Billion in lease obligations, have made $900 Million of losses year to date in 2019 and within their model they effectively lose a dollar for every one they make.
Plus stories then emerged about a CEO who had lost his way in terms of leadership.
But how did a guy who started the year running one of the most highly valued private companies in history end up here?
His vision for WeWork was so compelling that he transformed the real estate industry in ways that will reverberate for years to come.
It seems from the information emerging that money, fame, and excessive arrogance in the end led to bad decisions, a toxic work culture, and now, a company on the brink.
In essence it looks like he lost touch with reality.
In his excellent book on Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson described Jobs’ propensity for a reality distortion field.
Meaning if he saw something a certain way that was the end of it. That was reality and you’d better not disagree with him.
I’ve heard many leaders refer to that since as if it’s a badge of honour and the way they should be.
But I often think it was misinterpreted and many have taken it to the extreme, and in the end have become worse leaders because they don’t get the one thing that companies need today – true diversity of thinking – and perhaps Neumann is an example of this.
Having a compelling vision of an exciting future is essential for innovation and inspiring leadership.
But not if you surround yourself with people who only agree with you and tell you what you want to hear. Then that’s a surefire way to detach from reality.
And when that happens it’s the start of a decline.
You could say that the making of Steve Jobs was when he got fired from Apple – the pain of that time made him get better. It will be interesting to see if something similar happens to Adam Neumann.
How open are you to hearing a different viewpoint? Really.
To start, consider an area where results are not quite the way you want.
How can you get more in touch with reality there?
The truth is, reality is the best platform to jump up from – so it’s worth the pain.
PS – If you’re interested, here’s an interesting article on Adam Neumann situation by Fast Company.