Adam Neumann is no idiot. Yes, he essentially ran WeWork into the ground and was entirely out of control as a CEO and leader. Still, he walked away with a golden parachute that wasn’t far from a billion dollars, and he turned WeWork into a global brand before it all came crashing down.
He’s opening up about some of his major screwups and spoke this week at the New York Times DealBook Summit in New York about some of the lessons he learned.
It would be accurate to say he got drunk on his success. When the company’s valuation hit $47 billion, Neumann knew that something was off.
He said in a CNN story that as he was approaching investors with his company valued at almost $50 billion it “made me feel that whatever style I was leading at was the correct style at the time. At some point [it went to my head]. I think the moment you lose focus on really the core of your business and why this business was what it meant to be.”
The most interesting thing he talked about was how he completely screwed up a meeting he had with Apple CEO Time Cook in early 2019. The two CEOs chatted for 90-minutes. The convo, according to Neumann, was pretty one-sided.
“In that meeting with one of the biggest CEOs on the planet … I spoke so much, instead of listening. I had the chance to sit in front of a great person like that and learn, and I was busy talking again.”
What’s ironic is Cook had appeared earlier that day on a video chat just an hour or so before Neumann.
“I actually hoped that he was going to be here today. I was going to apologize to him and tell him that if I ever get a chance to speak to him again, I will listen. I apologize for being an idiot back then.”
An idiot who was paid hundreds of millions of dollars for leaving the company he started.