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Culture

Red Hat's ambition leads to software success

Red Hat is different because Red Hat's ambition is huge.

The leaders in global business, and particularly in technology, are those that define themselves as such, and relentlessly push themselves to live up to their stated aspirations. Google aims to master the world's information while simultaneously not being evil. Red Hat? Well, Red Hat sees itself as the great democratizer of IT.

You get a sense for this zeal in Linuxworld's interview with DeLisa Alexander, vice president of Human Capital at Red Hat. For Alexander, Red Hat isn't just another place to collect a paycheck. It's a place to build the future:

[What sets us apart is a] once-in-a-lifetime chance to participate in the global development and deployment of the structured technology that is going to change the social fabric of the community in which it touches. That is one key differentiator in this work experience.

This is our culture. We are nonhierarchical. We limit the number of hierarchies in the organization, because we want to make sure that we are fostering collaboration and leadership at all levels. We want to make sure that we are celebrating achievements across the company, as opposed to growing the number of managers in the organization. We are really focusing on growing innovators. So, it is a culture that is characterized by open communication and collaboration.

I believe every company that hopes to succeed on a grand scale needs to have a grand-scale vision for itself. Is it a bit peddler or a software leader? Generally speaking, the company's mission must transcend software or it will fail to spark the curiosity in would-be buyers to give it a try, and will fail to ignite the devotion within the employee ranks to live up to their potential.

Too often, however, we torpedo our ambition with doubt: "Don't get any big ideas. They're not going to happen." And they don't. Because we limit our ambition.

Alexander's job has become harder over time, I would bet, as the company has exceeded 3,000 employees. It's hard to rally the troops when there are so many more to be rallied. It's getting harder to find mini-Matthew Szuliks in the rank-and-file at Red Hat. This is why things like RHX, theRed Hat Appliance Operating System, One Laptop Per Child, and such are critical to Red Hat's success, even if they don't live up to their revenue projections:

They reinforce belief in the justness of the company's cause, and make it tangible.

My own company has followed Red Hat's lead with an internal discussion about democratizing content and tearing down walls between people, corporations, and the content that separates them. What's yours?