Tien Tzuo on “Leading” – Not “Managing”

Tien Tzuo is the founder and chief executive of Zuora, a software company for subscription businesses. In his New York Times interview with Adam Bryant he discusses the distinction between “leading” and “managing” and what it means to him.

Tzuo told Bryant that he tells everyone who he works with: “I’m more of a leader, not a manager. So don’t expect me to manage you. You have to manage me.” Tzuo doesn’t believe in one-on-one meetings or performance reviews. He doesn’t believe in one-on-ones in a group environment because they have very little impact on the issue at hand is it relates to the group.  Tzuo elaborates on this – “I want most of the issues exposed in a team environment, because most of these things have to be worked out in a group setting.” He doesn’t believe in performance reviews because he believes all members of a team (including the project manager) should always be on the same page, which leaves little room for mystery in terms of an individual’s performance. “If I have to do performance reviews with you, something’s wrong. We should be on the same page at all given times. We should have shared goals and shared accountability.”

I agree with Tzuo and believe that these types of formal evaluations have the potential to distance coworkers. It can sometimes have the affect of making employees worry more about themselves and their own work than the accomplishments of the team. Teams and team leaders should always be transparent and open with each other if they feel a member’s contributions aren’t satisfactory or what is best for the project at the time. I believe there is definitely a way of going about this without personally putting down or discouraging an employee. Driven people who are working closely together, who believe in each other’s abilities at the end of the day, should have no qualms being honest and objective about these issues and it should come about organically.




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