September 11, 2017

This is why you should not be the CEO.

You shouldn’t be CEO if the title matters more to you than serving your employees and team everyday.

And I do not mean that BS ‘servant leader’ stuff. I mean understanding that you have taken on the responsibility of feeding the people you have convinced to join your team. And as much as that thought of failing all these people you have convinced to help you do the work petrifies you, it drives you to sweat for them every day.

You shouldn’t be CEO if you get into the office in the morning and you’re not quite sure what you should be working on today because no one has actually assigned you a task.

Your work starts when you wake up. I don’t suggest you grab your phone the minute you wake up. I’m suggesting your mission should be clear and things that do not move you closer to that vision should not distract. The mission prioritizes things for you. There are very few things that require you always to know what is in your inbox. And most of those things have more to do with your actual life not work.

As Fred Wilson suggested, and I agree, you as the CEO have three major tasks

  1. Evangelizing the vision
  2. Hiring the best people
  3. Keeping money in the bank.

Don’t screw those things up. Even if you screw up the others, don’t screw those three up.

You shouldn’t be CEO if you’re the only person at your startup.

That title means nothing if you are not leading anyone. Even if you are leading a few people, see first point above.

You shouldn’t be CEO if you say ‘I only work with people smarter than me’ and you do not truly mean it.

That being said, and this part is often not said enough, you should be smarter than everyone else on your team is one thing. It does not matter what it is, as long as it enables you to inspire the people who commit to working with you day in day out.

You shouldn’t be CEO if you delegate all tasks and decision making to your team.

They are looking to you to set the vision and lead them. I’ve heard of CEOs who do not know the company cash balance by heart. See sub-point #3 of point #2 above.

You shouldn’t be CEO if you are uncomfortable with sometimes moving from the macro view of the industry to the minute details within the span of thirty minutes.

You must know where your company lies in the industry cycle and be able to shift to discussing the most important detail of one of the three levers that drive your business. It takes being both a hedgehog (who knows a lot about one thing) and a fox (who knows a little about a lot of stuff) to navigate the day to day of the CEO role successfully.

You shouldn’t be CEO if you are more interested in being loud and heard because you ‘know’.

Shut up and listen instead.

You shouldn’t be CEO if you ignore the advice you received from someone who might know more than you simply because you do not like ‘how she said it’.

A lot of advice is bad. Some of it is good. But your feelings about the person delivering the advice is not how you determine whether you take it or not.

You shouldn’t be CEO if you cannot focus on the goal in front of you.

The single focus on a goal that underlies the vision.

Did you have a negative emotional reaction to everything above and it had nothing to do with the content, just the suggestion that you might not be fit to be CEO? That’s your ego getting in the way.

But what if you find yourself in the CEO role and you are as flawed as we all are? And you cannot claim to be anything but those traits above? All hope is not lost.

Your path to successfully being a CEO boils down to a never-ending desire to learn and become better at the work of articulating a vision, serving the mission and the people and increasing your business quotient. That’s the promise you make to all involved by taking on the mantle of CEO.

Don’t screw it up.

Seyi Fabode

Strategy @AshaLabs, Writer @HarperJacobs. Check out my book "40 Semi-Obvious Startup Lessons".

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