Moving lines

One of the parts that is hard about this situation for Mozilla is that we don’t know where to draw the line now. People are worried that this is now a slippery slope, or that anyone could be pushed out because of outside views. I think as a community we need to accept the truth that Brendan wasn’t a viable CEO and figure out where this leaves the lines.

I think there is an obvious set of boundaries in this case that hopefully we can restrict this kind of scrutiny to stay within. The CEO is an outward facing position. When asked about the responsibilities of CEO vs CTO, Brendan answered that the CEO does a lot of working with partners and hiring. So the CEO interacts with people currently outside the Mozilla community. People who haven’t had the chance to build trust in us, in our CEO, in our way of doing things. I think if a director of HR had made a similar donation, it would also make it hard for people who must interact with that person to feel safe and trust them, even if they leave their personal beliefs at the door.

I am worried that next we’ll be expected to thoroughly vet candidates on their political views and actions. I think the problem in this case was that we already knew about Brendan’s donation, and still asked everyone to trust him anyway. But if we don’t thoroughly vet someone, and something comes to light, will we be expected to ask them to step down as well? I have a feeling the answer is yes.

I think for me the biggest lesson here is that the world doesn’t know us, and therefore they don’t trust us. I think this is partly our fault, we have focused on trying to win with users, and not on values. If the world knew us for our values, and not for our features, maybe we’d have had more people defending us, trusting us that we wouldn’t hire a CEO that would harm our contributors. They may still have called for Brendan to step down, but they would have been much more thoughtful about separating Brendan the individual from Mozilla the organization.

Is that wishful thinking? Sure, but we’re Mozilla. We’re good at wishing things, and we’re pretty damn awesome at making sure they come true.

4 Responses to “Moving lines”

  • Giuliano

    I fully agree with you.

  • Dave

    Brendan wasn’t a viable CEO not because of his personal views but because he did not attempt to communicate properly. I firmly believe that Brendan had a chance to be CEO and this could all have been handled better if he and others said the right things. A lot of this was entirely predictable and could have been sorted out prior to him taking office. Instead, all of a sudden there was a new CEO and his response to the PR mess was to shut down and dodge questions (something lots of us might do in a similar situation). What we need is someone who can effectively deal with the PR and HR issues as they come. The world doesn’t know Mozilla, and that’s the problem that needs fixing. Mozilla has never been particularly great at PR or marketing. :/

    Brendan donated more money to political candidates than Prop 8, but nobody really cares. Prop 8 was just too toxic and supporting it in any way just scared people. We tend to see patterns in things even though sometimes it’s just an extreme case. I don’t think the standards for CEO have really been increased here. Brendan may just not have been the man for the job. I really wish someone just figured that out earlier so this debacle could’ve been avoided and he could have stayed as CTO. 🙁

  • Simon

    The problem is that this is a horrifying precedent for the community… someone who’s spent many years doing good work for the community, now turned into a pariah. I don’t like Brendan’s views, but the reaction terrifies me…

  • njn

    My conclusion is that the CEO role genuinely is different to any other role. I like the analogy that the CEO is both the “head of government” and “head of state”, i.e. both a functional and symbolic role. It was the importance of the latter role that was underestimated.