10 Things You Didn’t Know about Jim Whitehurst

Jim Whitehurst is the CEO of Red Hat, which is a multinational corporation that specializes in providing businesses with a wide range of open-source software as well as a number of related services. It is interesting to note that Whitehurst has a distinctive leadership style that enables him to stand out from his peers. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about Jim Whitehurst:

His Family Name Has Topographical Origins

Whitehurst is a name with a topographical origin. After all, a hurst means either a wood or a wooded hill, meaning that Whitehurst was used as a family name for someone who was living somewhere situated close to a wood with white-barked trees.

Served with The Boston Consulting Group

Generally speaking, Whitehurst is best-known for his roles at both Delta Air Lines and Red Hat. However, it is interesting to note that before he was at those companies, he was at The Boston Consulting Group, where he held a number of managerial positions at a number of its offices before rising to the position of Vice President.

Served As COO of Delta Air Lines

Before becoming CEO of Red Hat, Whitehurst was Chief Operating Officer for Delta Air Lines, with the result that he had a critical role in bringing it out of bankruptcy under its CEO at the time, Gerald Grinstein. With that said, COO wasn’t Whitehurst’s first position at Delta Air Lines, seeing as how he had been Senior Vice President and Chief Network and Planning Officer before that particular appointment.

Became Popular Because of Keep Delta My Delta

Whitehurst became known to a lot of people because of the Keep Delta My Delta campaign, which was waged to fend off a hostile takeover launched by US Airways in 2006. Over the course of the campaign, Whitehurst mounted a spirit defense that won supporters through his transparency as well as his obvious fondness for Delta Air Lines.

Some Believe that Whitehurst’s Defense of Delta Prevented Him From Being Chosen to Succeed His Boss

Unfortunately, while Whitehurst played an important role in fending off the hostile takeover, some people think that the Keep Delta My Delta campaign had a negative effect on his own professional prospects when it came time for Grinstein to step down in 2007. These people believe that Whitehurst’s defense actually hurt his chances of being chosen by Delta Air Lines’s Board of Directors when the search for a successor started up.

Believes in an Open Organization

As a CEO, Whitehurst believes that the same principles that are best-suited for creating open-source software can have beneficial effects in business management by encouraging business structures that are better-suited for the decentralized nature of the Digital Age. In fact, he has written a book called The Open Organization that covers open organizations, which are supposed to engage both internal and external participative communities for greater inspiration, greater responsiveness, and greater access to resources.

Believes in a Combative Business Culture

Curiously, Whitehurst believes in a very combative sort of business culture. In fact, it is normal for him to communicate with his subordinates through cursing and screaming, which is something that can seem shocking to those who are used to more sedate business cultures.

Believes in a Distinction Between Constructive and Un-constructive Dialogue

With that said, Whitehurst believes that there is a sharp distinctive between constructive and un-constructive dialogue even when said dialogue consists of cursing and screaming in significant part. As a result, one of the responsibilities of Red Hat’s HR is making sure that its personnel understand when their dialogue crosses the line between rough but nonetheless constructive and rough with nothing else to it.

Has Spoken About the Enormous Passion Fueling Red Hat

Whitehurst’s current beliefs about leadership have been influenced by his time at Red Hat, which is a significant departure from his time at Delta Air Lines. In particular, he has mentioned that a Red Hat recruiter mentioned the business culture being reminiscent of a Blues Brothers line, “We’re on a mission from God,” which speaks volumes about the passion fueling the corporation’s operations. Something that is perhaps unsurprising considering its relationship with Linux.

Concerned About Value Extraction

Towards entrepreneurs, Whitehurst has stressed the need to be concerned about value extraction. Simply put, a start-up might be able to add a great deal of value through its offerings, but if it can’t extract some of that value for its owners, it is not going to be able to continue operating into the future. As a result, entrepreneurs need to have an idea of how they are going to extract some of that value by offering something to interested parties that the alternatives cannot.


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