Most of us know about the recent brouhaha of Sam Altman and OpenAI.
[TLDR: Since 2019, he’s been the CEO of OpenAI, the group behind Chat GPT. But recently, his Board of Directors fired him. In response, 95% of the staff of OpenAI – 740 people- wrote an open letter threatening to resign and “join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Altman.” The board had no choice but to bring Altman back… and walk the plank themselves. Not to mention, all this occurred in five days, from November 17 to November 22.]
The big story, of course, is what on earth made the staff react this way?
It’s clear from their open letter that the team at Open AI had a culture they valued – plus the clout and cohesion to fight for it – and it’s clear that they believed the board could not safeguard that culture and Altman could. So, they put their careers on the line, defied the board, and defended Altman.
This is Julius-Caesar-level loyalty. One of the reasons Caesar was able to rise so quickly in Roman society was because he loved his troops and they loved him back. In his civil war and at the Rubicon, Caesar’s 13th Legion followed him instead of the orders of the Roman Senate (i.e., the Board). They took this risk because they saw him as a real leader… not unlike the staff of OpenAI defying the board and sticking by Altman.
The lesson here is that real leadership can’t be faked.
Who knows what’s lurking in the shadows or if Altman’s leadership style is worth defending, but you don’t get this type of loyalty from empty words.
Real leadership is earned through deep trust and connection. Whether it is Altman or Caesar, people will fight for the leader who fights for them.
The great irony here is how Altman, the great AI honcho who has told us that AI will replace all sorts of jobs, found his own job utterly irreplaceable in the end.
This was because he was able to do what his machines could not: connect deeply with other people.
As always, it’s what the machines CANNOT do that’s truly irreplaceable. ‘Artificial’ intelligence, by definition, will never be able to create this level of connection, because ‘artificial’ connection is not really connection at all.