Why Some of the Most Innovative Leaders Have An Open Door Policy


Samantha Cole

March 4, 2014

Each of our Most Innovative Companies made it on the list for many reasons–and great leadership is a big one. These CEOs are busy changing the game; how do they find time to keep an “open door policy” with their staff?

Mike Ghaffary, vice president of business development at Yelp

With more than 100 million Yelp users, Ghaffary gets a lot of meeting requests. Even if he devoted his whole day to inquires alone, he’d never get to all of them, he says. “But I want to be open to as many conversations as possible,” he says.

Setting business development office hours every week keeps the flood at bay. “It’s a chance for someone who doesn’t have a strong referral to come in.” Keeping the balance are “No Meeting Thursdays,” where he has time to think about the company’s direction uninterrupted. “You have to carve out unstructured time to think deeply,” Ghaffary says.

Patrick Whitesell, co-CEO of WME

Failure is not only an option, it’s encouraged at WME. “We’ve found that a necessary part of being successful is embracing that,” says Whitesell. “If you aren’t experiencing failure part of the time, then you probably aren’t doing everything right.” The company culture takes top priority. “You can have all the right strategy in the world; if you don’t have the right culture, you’re dead.”

Tim Clem, Senior VP of Product at GitHub

Clem sees GitHub itself as an open-source project: instead of maintainers and contributors, they call them Primarily Responsible People. “Leadership at GitHub is generally talked about more as a responsibility,” he says. “We push responsibility and ownership down to all levels of the organization, so that people are really making decisions. We give all our employees equity in the company.”

When a conflict arises and they ask themselves, ‘Do we need a policy around this?’ the answer is almost always to trust staff with their jobs. “Building something really matters here.”

José de Jesús Legaspi, owner and president of The Legaspi Company

Legaspi doesn’t stay holed-up in his corner office. As CEO, he says it’s his responsibility to “describe the process, coach the process, and define achievable results” to his team. This means he spends as much time with the operations department and marketing departments as he does the executives.

He’s also grounded in reality, outside of the company bubble: “When I take over a mall with 50 to 100 employees, the first thing is to coach them all in terms of that communal attitude,” he says. Employees must think of themselves as part of a family, with each job being vital to the overall experience. “Employees should be empowered to execute whatever task will immediately benefit the consumer.”

Great ! Thanks for your subscription !

You will soon receive the first Content Loop Newsletter