A Framework for Index Council Candidate Vetting


  • Builders > Bureaucrats
  • We need strong, product focused, humble, tenacious leaders who are AMBITIOUS and will drive us to create / grow / maintain products.
  • They need to be the highest/executive level thinkers and people of a character that embody the values IC wants to be known for.

Let this be the primary filter when vetting candidates.

To begin

I’ve been thinking through our nomination conversation, and our seeming eagerness to nominate a bunch of folks we think would just do a good job.

But I want to start by reiterating Set’s position, in order for Index Coop to have longevity and go from good to great, Index Coop’s immediate, and primary focus should be on activities that create, grow, and maintain successful investor products. I have a concern around how much time and energy here is spent on these forums, talking/debating about the best way to do things. We often swirl rather than having a Tech Startup/Experimental mentality.

Having said that, on the topic of leadership, we need to start recognizing our leaders will need success not only in this area, but they’ll need to embody characteristics that make them leaders worth following.

So I have a few thoughts on leadership before we all make some lasting decisions here. This conversation wasn’t had the first time around, (instead we were hyper-focused on responsibilities and decision making authority, and troubleshooting, and engineering org structures). But if we have the will to think about it now, it will change not only the Coop, but the DeFi space as a whole, even the Cryptoverse, and the world (not to mention our personal experiences). I’m convinced these frameworks will help us think about true leadership outside of just ‘gettin it done’. This is important because ‘What got us here, won’t get us there’

“We’re going to see a 21st century shift, from a society of organizations well managed - to the world being organized into a society of networks well led. You don’t manage a network. If this is right, we’re going to need great leadership distributed throughout all sectors.”

Jim Collins [cir. 2015]

If you don’t already know, Jim Collins is a genius. And much of his team’s research in Good to Great DIRECTLY applies to the tough problems we’re trying to solve together at Index Coop. Go read it.

After teaching leaders at Westpoint, he gave a talk at the 2015 Global Leadership Summit that is pertinent here. I’ve distilled some of his thinking below.

But first, I believe we rise and fall by our definitions, and much of our debating here arises from ‘definition deltas’. So in your mind, set the word ‘leadership’ aside for a moment (with whatever baggage that carries for you), and ask the question. What does it mean to Lead Well?

Sometimes it’s easier to define things by what they’re not.

The data show that successful Leadership is not:

  • Personality
  • Position
  • Title
  • Rank
  • Power

To quote James MacGregor Burns, “True leadership only exists if people follow when they would otherwise have the freedom to not. To invoke power, or rank, or position, or title as your primary means to getting things done is an abdication of leadership.”

I mean, how often do we get Personality confused with Leading Well, right?

I have some level of personal (or at least solid working) relationship with many of the v1 wise Owls @Pepperoni_Joe, @Metfanmike, @LemonadeAlpha, @Matthew_Graham. I respect these Kings and look up to them. They are all great people that have technical proficiency and strong ideas of what’s best for the Coop.

But I’m convinced the Coop (all of us), have suffered from continued operationally focused leadership to the exclusion of the biggest picture. While we need the operational layer, we’re so myopically focused on the ‘what’, that we don’t even have capacity to first think about who embodies the qualities that are representative of the Coop’s Values. We’re doers by nature, and there’s plenty to do.
(What do we value, by the way? This post was clearly a lot of work, and references ‘values’ dozens of times, but to my knowledge didn’t result in a widely adopted or publicized artifact of purpose/guiding values, or our “way of life”. See also: Harvard Business Review on meaningless values jargon). We’ll need this to calculate our North Star.

We’re so busy working in the Coop that we haven’t prioritized working on the Coop - the very thing that will tee us up to hit our TVL goals.

What I believe:

  • The Highest Level Problem - DeFi is missing Leaders of Character

    • Localized Critical Issue: Index Coop has been missing world class leaders of character
  • IC Lacks strong Leadership: Index Coop lacks the leaders that will drive it towards being a successful, thriving organization.

  • IC Culture is broken - Index Coop, from day 1, has never had a leader intentionally build the organization’s culture.

  • IC lacks Identity - The Coop does not know, or cannot agree, on what it is, what it does (offers as a primary value proposition), and why.

    • (This manifests in many ways, but more recently around ‘who thinks we should centralize to what level’, etc.)

*Definition - Leaders of Character here are not defined by the specific skill sets they bring to the table, or their Personality, Position, Title, Rank, Power. We already have many technically competent people in critical positions and many with significant political power. Leaders of Character in this context are defined by the highest level 10,000 ft view thinking and their embodiment of the values the Coop stands for.

On the Art of leading well

“Leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what must be done”
-Gen. Eisenhower

Observations on this quote:

  1. Part of the responsibility of being a leader is to figure out, on the big things, what must be done, and much more often than not, to be right.
  2. It’s not about getting people to do what must be done, it’s about getting them to want to do what must be done
  3. It’s not a science, it’s an art

“A Level 4 leader is good at inspiring people to follow them. A level 5 leader is good at inspiring people to follow the cause.

On Decision Making:

The most empowering thing I can do as a leader is look at the leaders around me and say “You decide”

One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is making all the decisions. When you do that, you undermine the development of the leaders around you. Make as few decisions as possible - pushing the decision down as far as possible.

For our context, I believe the Council should be pushing decisions down to relevant leaders and when necessary, pushing them to assembled WIN teams for urgent focus on specific critical issues, with the aim to make strategic recommendations on the tactics needed to move the biggest obstacles blocking us from our Vision.

Which candidates do we believe embody this idea, maintaining the 10,000 foot, executive view and not ‘getting in the weeds’? Who is willing to push decisions down when possible for the good of the Coop? Who isn’t a candidate yet, who embodies these leader qualities?

On Bad decisions/mistakes:

We never gain more respect for leaders who are not willing to own their mistakes. People will forgive leaders for making bad decisions, in fact you can actually gain moral authority and credibility by owning your bad decision, but you lose both when you cover up.

Tell the truth

Tell it fast

Tell it yourself

On Leader Development:

We should give people opportunities they’re not quite ready for, and then refuse to make decisions for them.

Strong, product focused, newer leaders that while humble, are AMBITIOUS and drive us to create / grow / maintain products both early and late adopters will love, should be given opportunities for decision making. This is the only way to ensure our Leadership Pipeline is producing the leaders the Coop needs (we need WAY more than just the Council), and that DeFi is desperate for.

5 Characteristics of a Leader worth following:

I believe there are 5 characteristics that make a leader worth following. You don’t have to have these 5 things to be a leader, but I’m convinced you do have to have these 5 things to be a leader worth following. I’m still exploring, and I have lots of questions around each of these that I’d love input on.

The idea is to become a leader worth following, and to embody these five things:

  • Clarity
    • As leaders we can be uncertain but we cannot be unclear
    • Clarity in leaders trumps everything - people follow clarity, they don’t follow integrity (look at all of politics throughout all of history)
      • Why? Clarity creates certainty which is really what people want - the wallets holding our products, our external partners, and our investors
      • Which candidates have we consistently seen the most clarity from in their understanding and Vision for the Big Picture?
  • Courage
    • Are we willing to leverage more than our ability to be clear, so that at the end of the day there is a legacy - something to look back on?
    • What does courage look like in the context of leadership?
    • Which of our leaders are brave enough to say “No” even if it jeopardizes their ‘political’ standing in the Coop bureaucracy?
  • Competence
    • Technical proficiency and holistic context to understand the biggest picture issues
    • How do we measure something like this? What are big picture KPI’s, $INDEX price? Budget cutting?
  • Coachability
    • “I assume I’m not the smartest person in the room, I’m just the leader”
    • Are our leaders comfortable with saying “I don’t know” when needed? This should be a celebrated posture for leaders. Who currently embodies this level of humility? Who is actively practicing this?
  • Character
    • The will to do what’s right, even when it costs you something
    • What does this look like in our context for Nest leads or the Council or Pod leads?

One more TLDR; We’ve been focusing on only a part of the picture, and therefore starting from inaccurate assumptions and unhelpful lenses. Let’s fix this for today, and future conversations around leading well in the Coop.

I’d be honored to hear your feelings and thoughts on this as we consider our options and take steps forward.


This is a great write-up Nick!

The single biggest reason for IC’s continued success is our culture of strong leadership and shared culture. The beauty of the DAO is that it empowers each individual to become the best possible version of themselves.

Winning is a habit - and we need to cultivate that habit within our community. Think about some of the famous coaches from sports, they have winning seasons EVERY SINGLE YEAR. That can be us.


@nic – this is a great push for IC and a great perspective on leadership. Appreciate your + Set Team’s continued focus and perspective on this issue!

Your framing is exactly right IMO: we’re a startup in need of a turnaround (or pivot), and we need proven leaders who can guide through this challenging situation.


Lots to aspire to in this post Nic. This stood out for me

A Culture of Discipline

Collins believes great companies exhibit remarkable discipline in three areas: people, thought and action. Disciplined people, he explains, eliminate the need for hierarchy. Disciplined thought removes bureaucracy. And disciplined action eliminates the need for excessive control. Together, all three result in extraordinary business performance.

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Yeah this is HUGE. The flywheel and hedgehog concepts and foundational

Love it. You summed it up way more elegantly than I lol