Alludo CEO Christa Quarles says her ‘leadership by haiku’ style breeds creativity and innovation

Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Humor might benefit women more than men, the winner of the women’s Boston Marathon had only run one marathon before the big race, and Fortune senior editor Claire Zillman shares a new interview with Alludo CEO Christa Quarles. Have a great Tuesday!

– ‘Leadership by haiku.’ Christa Quarles, then the CEO of OpenTable, rocked Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in 2017 when she called “bullshit” on an angel investor who suggested women in tech weren’t supporting each other.

“In Silicon Valley today there is a sisterhood of women who are supporting each other, telling each other about board opportunities, giving each other business ideas,” she said at the time.

Quarles revisited that interaction on the most recent episode of Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast—and what came next. Her callout was “a great moment of introspection” for her own company. It prompted OpenTable to address the gender gap among its engineers. OpenTable started putting résumés through anonymizing filters, considered at least two diverse candidates for each opening, and shook up who weighed in on hiring decisions. The next quarter, half of the engineers OpenTable hired were women. Quarles argues that bias is “usually a systems-level issue…You sink to the level of your systems,” she says.

Since then, Quarles, who sits on the boards of Kimberly-Clark and Affirm Inc., joined software company Alludo as CEO. She steered the company through a rebrand—it used to be called Corel—and is leaning into remote work as many tech companies call workers back to the office.

She sees the return-to-office debate as an identity crisis for leaders. “Leaders now have to change the way that they operate,” she says. “It’s forcing people to look at outputs, not necessarily inputs.” Leaders need to be able to measure “what ‘done’ looks like.”

Quarles argues that “when people hear the word ‘remote first,’ they then interpret ‘meet never.’ And that is not the intention.” Alludo gathers “all the time,” she says, but does so intentionally. “Every time we have an off-site, I say the No. 1 thing we’re doing here is neuro-biological connection; we are wiring ourselves together so we can tell each other really honest, direct things next month because we had that moment, we had that trust.”

Quarles also abides by a concept she calls “leadership by haiku,” which is less about communicating in 17-syllable snippets and more about learning how to work within specific parameters—say, the need to offer workers flexibility or reach a specific hiring goal or power through a tough economy. “I just think that most great companies—when given a set of constraints that they have to operate within—become much more innovative and creative as a result,” she says.

You can listen to the whole interview on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Claire Zillman

The Broadsheet is Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women. Today’s edition was curated by Kinsey Crowley. Subscribe here.


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Correction, April 18, 2023: A previous version of this article misstated that Gameto is developing IVG. It only focuses on improving IVF. 

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