The Underrated Power of Warmth

Silicon Valley worships the intellect.

How many times have you read entrepreneurs bragging about hiring rockstar programmers?

How many times have you heard investors describe their entrepreneurs as geniuses?

For that matter, how many times have you heard investors or entrepreneurs describe *themselves* as geniuses?

Intelligence does matter, and not just for coding.  Being able to learn quickly, express yourself clearly, and see hidden patterns are all helpful for achieving entrepreneurial success.

But in our mania for mental acuity, we often underrate the power of warmth.

Silicon Valley is unusual in this respect.  Other industries and activities place a lot of value on warmth.

In sports, veteran players are often praised for being “good clubhouse guys,” and players who lack warmth are called “clubhouse cancers,” despite their athletic ability.

In politics, we tend to gravitate towards leaders who can project warmth, like Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, rather than technocrats like Al Gore and Mitt Romney.  (President Obama is a noted exception; Leonard Nimoy would be jealous of his preternatural calm)

But when’s the last time you heard of any famous Silicon Valley leaders being praised for their warmth?  Jobs?  Ellison?  Zuckerberg?  Larry and Sergey?

Once upon a time, this wasn’t the case.  Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were wicked smart geniuses, but they were also known for developing a warm and compassionate management style, the HP Way.

By failing to appreciate the power of warmth, we’ve lost something important.  A workplace without warmth leads to higher turnover and lower productivity, no matter how smart the individual contributors.

As you assess your job candidates for mental horsepower and “cultural fit,” spare a few moments to consider their warmth.  It may be an old fashioned virtue, but it has great power to help your startup.

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