Book Review: What You Do Is Who You Are


What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business CultureWhat You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture by Ben Horowitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As someone hired at a small company to implement change, determine how and where to change the culture has been a big challenge. “What you do Is Who You Are” really helps with clarifying limitations I am operating under as someone that cannot change our CEO’s vision of our culture. I’ve felt for a long time that culture is something a CEO owns and that any bad behavior should be pinned to the CEO and that CEO should be fired if they cause something like a financial crash. It is their culture that allowed and pushed someone to make a multi-billion dollar bet.

This book demands that the CEO takes ownership of the culture. It also elevates culture to one of the most important thing a CEO must consider. It is something that, Horowitz argues, must be continually reinforced in little action. He argues that to earn the trust of your employees, you have to do things that show you trust them. That you need to make sure they understand the ultimate goal for the company and to see WHY you’re saying this thing is part of your culture.

Horowitz uses some rather extreme examples to show how you can change the culture of an organization as a leader. He uses the slave revolt in Haiti and a prison gang leader. Both show that if you explain why to the people that report to you, that you can get them to radically change their behavior. For example, you’d expect former slaves to butcher and pillage the lands of their former slave masters. Louvatore refused to allow his troops to do this, because he wanted to create a healthy free state. If the land was razed there’d be no economy for all the freedmen in the country.

Similarly, Shaka Seghnor believed that for any gang to be successful, they must live by the code of ethics they claimed. It would lead to hard decisions and often forced contradictory behavior. Such as forcing one of his gang members to apologize rather than attacking someone that the gang member had robbed.

There were some real gems in this book and I strongly recommend every CEO or aspiring CEO read this book. it provides great ideas of what your culture could be and how to get there. It also includes great recommendations for how to have a healthy inclusive culture.

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