RALEIGH, N.C. – Matthew Szulik, top gun at Red Hat, has some interesting tips to offer business leaders inn an interview with Matt Asay, a blogger at C/Net and a well-known open source executive.

Looking back over his tenure that includes taking Red Hat public in 1999, Szulik conceded he has made some mistakes ranging from bad hires to making acquisitions prematurely.

Interestingly, to Szulik making smart hires is more of a challenge than dealing with proprietary software king Microsoft, Microsoft ally Novell, and Larry Ellison at Oracle, who is committed on a Linux service offering to pry away Red Hat customers.

“This the hardest part of my job: hiring good people,” Szulik said. “I take it very seriously.”

What’s his guidance to others?

Here’s what he told Asay in three key points – culture, board and courage:

“Culture is much more important than technology. Values and culture drive the best companies. It’s easy to become intoxicated by technology in our business, but technology doesn’t win. People do.”

“Invest in a strong board. We’ve been very lucky to have an outstanding group of directors. I’ve been the beneficiary of excellent advisers. They don’t have to have technology experience. Some of ours are just great on culture and organizational behavior. We have great leaders of people on our team.”

“Courage. There were times when we asked ourselves, "Should we get rid of the GPL [general public license that governs Linux]?" when there was no clear economic model. I had one manager ask "When are you going to get rid of this open-source gimmick?" It takes courage to stick it out and commit to freedom and value for customers. We have to build customer satisfaction around this model. You don’t get this with halfway commitment.”

For the full interview, see the C/Net link.