“We flipped a coin and I became the CEO.”
“I was the only one left to be the CEO.”
“No one else wanted to be CEO.”
These are some of the things I have heard from some Founding CEOs over the years. It’s a really tough job to launch a new company…get traction…build a team…and get a new business off the ground. It’s even harder to sustain that success and scale the company as the CEO.
What exasperates this challenge? When you are a “Reluctant” CEO.
Many of you are experienced Founders and inexperienced CEOs. That fine. You may not be adept at hiring, but you are interested in learning. You may not be skillful at speaking in front of your employees, but you are interested in practicing. You may not know how to always motivate your team, but you are interested in figuring that out. You may not understand exactly what processes, procedures, and systems your company needs at each stage of its growth, but you are interested in seeking guidance.
The point is, when you are a new Founder & CEO, at some point in time you have to decide you want to get better at the CEO thing. For some of you it’s a gradual understanding and for others it’s more intentional.
What about those of you who are “Reluctant” CEOs? You seem to embrace the thrill and excitement of your Founder duties, but as for the CEO role, you seem indifferent at best and reluctant at worse. In my experience, this is a recipe for disaster for you and your company, which I will go into greater detail at a later time.
So, how do you know if your are a “Reluctant” CEO? Here are the three signs that I have seen.
- POOR PERFORMERS: Many of you tell me you understand the importance of building a strong team. But, when it comes to confronting poor performers on your leadership team, you seem reluctant. Your other team members see your reluctance. Don’t fool yourself. It’s challenging to be an effective CEO without confronting poor leaders on your team. You appear like a “Reluctant” CEO. Committed CEOs accept the responsibility for their team members’ performance.
- VISION CLARITY: Someone must help the people in your company connect their individual contributions with a clear and vibrant future. But, when it comes to spending the time necessary for you to get clear and create a compelling vision, you seem reluctant. You may want to hedge your bets of success on multiple scenarios. You may be uncertain about your funding. You may worry about a competitor. You appear like a “Reluctant” CEO. Committed CEOs accept the responsibility to create and regularly communicate a clear vision.
- CULTURE SHAPING: A culture exists in your company. It can be a default culture or one you actively shape. When you avoid or put off the development of a fair compensation plan that influences your company culture, you may be a “Reluctant” CEO. When you allow employees to treat each other with disrespect, you may be a “Reluctant” CEO. When you don’t care about your own behavior and pay little attention how you may be a poor role model for others, you may be a “Reluctant” CEO. Committed CEOs accept the responsibility to actively shape the culture of their company.
These are the three signs that I see most often. At some point in time on your journey From Founder To CEO, you have to make a decision. Do you really want to be the CEO? Do you really want to do what it takes to scale the company?
It can’t be a half-hearted decision. It calls for intention. It calls for you to leave behind the novelty of being the Founder and more fully embrace the things that call for an active CEO.
If you are a “Reluctant” CEO because you just aren’t sure about being the CEO. That’s ok. Take the time to get clear. Talk about it with other Founding CEOs, your family, or a mentor. Let that be one of your first tasks to figure out.
But, if you are a “Reluctant” CEO and you stay in this state indefinitely and muddle through, you are putting the company you founded at risk. Your past efforts, your business idea, your employees, your partners, your investors, and your customers all deserve a leader who wants to be there and who wants to scale themselves as a leader while they scale the company.
Are you a “Reluctant” CEO?