Adam Neumann, the 57-year-old entrepreneur and the founder of WeWork, a co-working business, has several talents that make him unique in Silicon Valley. He is exceptionally bright, a leading interviewer and a fan of high technology, he writes on the company’s blog.
But what Neumann does not seem to possess, at least in his own company, is the insight into how managers use their influence to shape the culture of a workplace.
“This experience with the end to end leadership lessons I learned from Glenn Robbins has set me on a trajectory I never thought I would have to pay attention to that I now feel compelled to pay,” Neumann wrote in a post last week about a leadership course offered by the University of Southern California and the Kellogg School of Management, where Neumann took graduate classes.
And yet Neumann wrote that he has been completely captivated by this particular course, a cross-country traveling seminar featuring some 60 of the business school’s top professors and administrators over the course of two years.
“The focus of the course was highly personal, and it captured each of my talents, strengths, interests, and how I want to spend my time,” Neumann wrote. “This is the kind of stuff that sets me apart and sets me apart from the rest of my colleagues.”
Nelson and Neumann met while he was a Harvard Business School student, she on her way to Yale’s student government. The two attended the same California college, Pierce College, which at the time was mostly a conservative college. After they got to Harvard, they made the cross-country move to WeWork’s hometown, New York, where they started the company.
The course at USC was held in the company’s headquarters, so Neumann said he was able to use one of his favorite parts of the workday to participate.
“Each day I returned to work refreshed and ready to build the best company I can,” he wrote. “Here I get to reflect on my previous day’s lessons and ask each class of students to reflect on their lessons that day and decide the best way to remember them.”
Neumann, like a lot of the industry’s leaders, seems to focus on the “perfect” workplace. But as he described to his USC classmates, a large component of creating “a dream” workplace culture is actually being fair.
“I know it’s easy to wonder how someone who wants so much to be fair is actually being fair,” he wrote, “but the fundamental understanding that everyone deserves to have a fair day is so simple that it’s so lost in this chaotic landscape.”
The lesson that Neumann has taken away: “Picking the right methodologies and working with the right people, will ensure that you’re giving your team the freedom and the guidance that they need to do their best work.”