We were blessed (cursed?) with the mother of all startup drama this week when Sam Altman was ousted from the top of multi-billion-dollar startup OpenAI. How do we know there was dramaaaa? Even Vanity Fair piled in.
Look, I haven’t been in any of the OpenAI board meetings, so God knows what went on in there. One detail that kept itching at my brain stem, however, was the quote that Altman was “not consistently candid in his communications with the board.” That stuck out to me, because if there’s anything I’ve learned from building companies, it’s that you’ve got to be straight and honest with your board.
Bad news, in particular, needs to travel fast to the board for a whole bunch of reasons. Some of them sound downright tedious (fiduciary duties, anyone?), but they’re deadly serious. I have no inside knowledge of OpenAI or Sam Altman and I’m not accusing anyone of lying, but there is quite a good lesson founders can learn from this whole palaver.
Startups have a reputation for moving fast and breaking things, but that reputation usually doesn’t extend to the board room. The relationship between leaders and their board is a critical component of a company’s success story. The golden rule of this relationship? Honesty.
No, you can’t lie to your board. It’s not just unethical, but it also has far-reaching implications for your business, your team, and ultimately, your own credibility.