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Summary

Ben Horowitz, a leading venture capitalist, modern management expert, and New York Times best-selling author, combines lessons from both history and modern organisational practice with practical and often surprising advice to help executives build cultures that can weather both good and bad times.

In What You Do Is Who You Are, Ben Horowitz, best-selling author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things, turns his attention to a question crucial to every organisation: how do you create and sustain the culture you want?

What You Do Is Who You Are explains how to make your culture purposeful by spotlighting four models of leadership and culture-building - the leader of the only successful slave revolt, Haiti’s Toussaint Louverture; the Samurai, who ruled Japan for 700 years and shaped modern Japanese culture; Genghis Khan, who built the world’s largest empire; and Shaka Senghor, an American ex-con who created the most formidable prison gang in the yard and ultimately transformed prison culture.

What You Do Is Who You Are is a journey through culture, from ancient to modern. Along the way, it answers a question fundamental to any organisation: who are we? How do people talk about us when we’re not around? How do we treat our customers? Can we be trusted?

Because who you are is not the values you list on the wall. It’s not what you say in a company-wide meeting. It’s not your marketing campaign. It’s not even what you believe. Who you are is what you do. This book will help you do the things needed to become the kind of leader you want to be – and others want to follow.

©2019 Ben Horowitz (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

What listeners say about What You Do Is Who You Are

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How to make a cult

I really liked Hard Thing About Hard Things, but this sequel on culture can be pretty neatly summarised by the title alone, or more aptly "the CEO defines company culture". I don't think that is a revelation to absolutely anyone who has any professional work experience.

However, there are some fun stories in here and examples of culture from the top. But it is hard to get away from the feeling Ben Horowitz is preaching several examples in almost hypocritical ways as best practices, but then constantly excuses rules with exceptions.
For example, I was quite pained listening to an example of a US telco saying "if any of you subscribe to cable by the end of the month you are fired" as a good example of culture (even though he doesn't say so explicitly). I do have to concede, despite cringing at how this book is basically "how to make a cult at work", it is kind of revealed in the title. It would make great reading for a young Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos) or Adam Neuman (WeWork) on creating morally dubious work cults, but I believe doesn't really help business leaders as much as his first book at all.
Additionally, it is VERY clear this is written for a small crowd of Silicon Valley execs, for European readers it is very cringe-worthy and is one of those things Europeans like to poke fun of American's for, the whole "I will die for my company/blind yes people cults/work is more important than my family/health mindset".

Overall interesting, but disappointing considering his past work.

p.s. I may be a bit biased after discovering in Ugly Truth that this book was used by Zuck to justify "wartime CEO" behaviour of immorality and liken Ben Horowitz similar to Peter Thiel in areas, but I do my best to remain neutral.

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A great business book

one of the few business books that is down to earth, clear, concise & that anyone from a student to a CEO can learn from. The author keeps it real, the narrator is excellent.
This is a great book

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Very enjoyable Listen

Amazing book full of inspiring stories, which will make me think twice about my actions as a business owner. I could listen to this book for fun for hours on end. Top notch writing because of the variation of interesting side stories and cut and dry information.

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Narrator ruined this book

Hi sounds like he is reading Shakespeare's Hamlet. Too much drama in the voice. Really puts off.

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Great Insights and Exciting Examples

I read a lot of business books, and this was different. The insights for the business I run were great, but the biggest difference was the examples. The author pulled from some amazing history that I wasn't previously well aware of.

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Great book

Great book with valuable insights in business governance, culture, leadership and values. Good for entrepreneurs and corporate leaders.

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Excellent

Magnificent read on corporate culture! Ben Horowitz presents excellent points and brings great examples! A must read IMO for every leader!

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A 1 hour lecture would’ve sufficed

The narrator was excellent, but the content felt a bit drawn out. I think the points could’ve been made sufficiently and succinctly in a 45 minute to 1 hour lecture and didn’t need an entire book to be effectively communicated. I’m also not sure that I agreed with some of the ‘war time vs peace time’ comparisons (namely making it sound okay for profanity to be used strategically. That itself feels like a cultural preference that some people (and country cultures) might feel very uncomfortable with rather than something that can be spoken about as normal ‘across-the-board’ behaviour).

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Insightful in parts

Starts strong, but the last quarter feels like filler or repeats materials from ‘hard things’.

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Great listen

Great advice from Ben Horowitz, linked with practical real life examples that augments the theory.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-07-21

there's some gold here

interesting book. It took me places I did not expect and drove the points home nicely.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-06-21

informative and entertaining

I found this book to be informative and a nice listen with interesting historical references. Whether you run a small business or a large company it’s worth the read/ listen. Also the narrator was fantastic!