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Case Code: CLHR065
Case Length: 9 pages
Period: 2008-2019
Pub Date: 2020
Teaching Note: Available
Subject : Human Resources/ Organization Behavior
Organization :Red Hat, Inc
Industry :Technology & Communications
Countries : United States

Open Leadership at Red Hat



The case “Open Leadership at Red Hat’ describes the open leadership approach followed by Red Hat, Inc., an American multinational software company providing open source software products. Red Hat’s culture was rooted in the open source movement since it had hired employees mostly from open source communities in the initial years post its inception in 1993. Constructive criticism through open and heated debates was common and acting openly was the norm and what was expected. The top management realized that open leadership gave Red Hat a competitive advantage and efforts had to be made to retain this culture even as the company grew in size.

The company management observed that in an open organization, employees evolved into leaders when they exhibited certain behaviors as a result of their beliefs. Red Hat identified the general principles (mindsets) and the resulting open leadership practices (behaviors) and took steps to interlock these mindsets with the leadership behaviors.

In the initial phase of building an open leadership system, Red Hat did not find any suitable end-to-end leadership development systems that would help train its people to lead in a flat organizational structure and a culture that preferred meritocracy over hierarchy and seniority. The company decided that it would build some of those systems itself and in other cases modify and adapt best practices used in standard organizations. Best practices like ‘Closing the Execution Gap’, the concept of ‘SMART’ goals, ‘Crucial conversations’, and ‘Influencer training’ were configured to align with open leadership mindsets and practices that could be used in tandem to make the concepts resonate and become even more powerful. To transform its senior management into open leaders, Red Hat created two leadership tools, the OPT (Organization, Passion, and Talent) model and the Red Hat Multiplier that was used in coaching, development, and planning at all four stages of leadership development – leadership at the personal level, team level, organizational level, and enterprise level. The idea was that when people were doing work that they loved (their Passion) and work at which they were good (Talent), and that work filled an Organization's needs, they would be performing at their best.

This open leadership approach led to greater agility, faster innovation, and increased engagement at Red Hat. Red Hat was named in Forbes magazine’s list of ‘The World’s Most Innovative Companies’ in 2012, 2014, and 2015 and as one of the best places to work by Glassdoor in 2013, 2014, and 2016.
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  • Understand the importance of an open management style.
  • Become aware of the interplay between mindsets and behaviors in the workplace.
  • Appreciate that leadership can be displayed at different levels in an organization.
  • Learn about different tools, frameworks and practices used in leadership training.
Red Hat, Inc. (Red Hat), an American multinational software company, provided open source software products such as cloud, middleware, operating platform, storage, and virtualization to the enterprise community. Since its inception in 1993, it had hired most of its employees from open source communities. This had led to the formation of an organizational culture that was rooted in the open source movement, where acting openly was the norm and the expectation.


Open Leadership; Open culture; Flat organizational structure; Leadership development; Leadership tools; Leadership Styles; Organizational Culture; Learning Culture; Leadership Values

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