Look in the Mirror

Quick Summary: Companies at different stages require different leadership and management skills.


As an idea becomes a reality and a company begins to grow and prosper, very different skill sets are required to effectively manage the continuous transition that will naturally occur.  Most individuals are simply not equipped to be effective at all levels.  Some can grow or morph to meet the new challenges, while others simply can’t.  This is not a judgmental statement but a simple fact.  Every CEO should look in the mirror from time to time to determine if they are still qualified and want to continue, or if it is best to step aside.

The articles in this section have focused on your individual role as the CEO.  Other sections will cover different aspects of your job.  Although this article can be read on a standalone basis, it might be helpful to read the article “Are You the Right Person.”  That article focuses on the difference between being an entrepreneur, starting a company, and a person that can effectively run an organization.  Clearly, there are quite different skills required for each task.

Not only are there significant differences between the idea/starting and the running stages, but there are significant different skill sets required as an organization grows.   As one example, as long as an organization is small, an entrepreneur turned CEO, may still be able to motivate and manage a small team.  They may also continue in their role as a key individual contributor.  However, as the team gets larger (ex. “The team cannot go to lunch in the same car and share the same pizza”), the personal one-on-one style may no longer be practical.  Certainly, when a company grows to the point when span of control becomes an issue, and there are managers that have managers, entirely different skill sets are required.

Comparing extreme cases, the goal of recently funded entrepreneur CEO and the goal of a Fortune 100 CEO may be the same:  increasing shareholder (investor) value. Their daily activities and demands will be totally different.  One set of skills is not inherently more difficult than the other, but they are certainly different.  Obviously, startups do not instantaneously become giant corporations. A select few grow to that position, some taking many decades while others occur much faster.  In some instances, the entrepreneur or initial CEO learns on the job and makes the incremental transitions required, but in most cases, they do not.

Instead of “holding on” or waiting until investors ask you to leave, every CEO should regularly look in the mirror and frankly assess their ability to continue to lead the organization.  In the early days, using the articles in this section may be a good starting point in making that assessment. Other articles in this chapter as well as articles in this volume: “Managing a Company,” may also help with the self-assessment.

Every successful entrepreneur and CEO must have a strong ego and believe in themselves, or they simply would not have achieved the position that they already achieved.  However, following the often-quoted financial cautionary note of “Past performance is not necessarily predictive of future results,” a CEO may not be poised for success as the company grows (or shrinks).  It is very hard for anyone to admit that they are no longer suited for their incrementally transitioning role.  It is, however, in everyone’s best interest to first look in the mirror and then talk candidly to others.  Changing conditions are often hard to recognize.  Attend a class reunion and this fact will immediately become apparent.  Isn’t it remarkable how others have changed but you haven’t?  Of course, they are saying the same thing about you!  Your mirror can be deceiving.  Be sure to see what actually is and not what you want it to be.


Article Number : 4.050210   

A Handy Reference Guide for Executives and Managers at All Levels.

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The weight of your world does not have to be on your shoulders.
The articles in this site will help to lift that weight from your shoulders.
Pick an article similar to how you pick a route on a page of an atlas.
There is no need to look at other articles, just as you ignore other pages in an atlas.
It is easy to start a business but it is hard to run. Bumps and unexpected sharp turns in the road are always present.
Others have traveled the road before you; learn from them. This site may help.