CEO hacks of Do’s and Don’ts
I’ll never be a leader. But I have observed some things about leadership. The role of the modern CEO has morphed a great deal. It’s no longer about establishing respect by power and authority. Not by a long shot. The new kind of CEO is a highly skilled team player.
The CEO inspires us by their enthusiasm and spirit of progress, they make us believe in the product as much as possible and that optimism carries into all that we do.
-1- Learn to be a Visionary, not a Manager.
People have roles in your company for a reason, they are in charge of their departments. Don’t try to do their job for them, you are a glorified salesperson, visionary, VC rep, employee engagement specialist. That’s your role.
-2- Learn what Legitimacy Power Means.
Legitimacy means you lead by example, you listen to your department heads, even to the little guys. Legitimacy means you delegate and foster team-work, not a “father-knows-best” approach to authority. Leadership is not the exercise of power, it’s the motivation of doing what you say and saying what is best for the team, the company, the product.
-3- Don’t be a Mouth, be a Presence.
Great CEOs have a presence, they don’t need to talk too much. They have the courage of their convictions and can build, empower, problem-solve, troubleshoot, and make tough decisions without appearing like they know everything. Being an authentic and mature leader, means actually speaking when it matters, and then maybe your words have more impact.
-4- Learn to Thrive in Tough Situations.
As a CEO there will be likely more lows than highs, it’s a high pressure job and you learn more about yourself when the going gets tough. This will show your true character and your ability to remain positive even amid setbacks. Take responsibility, take the blame, don’t look for scapegoats. Remember every action you take will be noticed by employees, management, VC and the board. This is a popularity contest, be respectable, be likeable, be fair.
-5- Don’t Believe you are the Final Authority.
The final authority are the results, you are totally replaceable and just a human being. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to get good advice that you just won’t take. You are going to hire and fire the wrong people, that’s just business. But don’t take all the stress on your shoulders, work well with the co-founders, don’t just foster a legacy chain of command, build teamwork with the times. Don’t assume you are the guy at the top, that’s not how a contemporary CEO should behave and that’s not a belief system the fosters teamwork or success in your company.
-6- Don’t Try and be a Superhero.
Superheros do not exist, they are figments of our imagination. Do too much, you will burn out. Do too much, you will hurt the company. Know your limits, delegate. Don’t try to be a rock-star, chance are, you are not. Don’t pretend you are working 15 hours a day, that’s not how to get things done. Even if you were a superhero, they hang out in groups, be the mastermind, not the evil genius.
-7- Do be Transparent, with information and power.
Share with your company and employees, be an authentic person. Be as much a visionary and a champion of HR. Remember that your employee engagement means more to the company than how much you take up yourself. You are just one person. The company’s success does not rise and fall with your command. Being transparent is sharing information, but also sharing responsibility for the company’s success or failure. You may have been one of the co-founders, months or years ago, but transparency requires you to not be too attached and not act as if your role as a CEO is the deal-breaker of what you believe you are leading.
-8- Don’t be Defensive, build allies.
Someone has a better idea than you, what do you do, you get defensive. That’s a normal human reaction. However, as the CEO you have to put the team first, there’s no place for EGO here. If every decision you make is about putting the company first, you don’t have time to react too emotionally, you have to be logical about things. Knowing your employees and using their genius, is your prime directive.
-9- Do be a Hawk of all things Legal.
The legal ramifications of your business has to rest upon someone’s shoulders. The CEO has to be aware of intellectual property, patents and all legal issues that could arise in relation with the product and the company. Are your corporate compliance policies up to par? Do you have effective mentors to help you through issues that come up? Because as you may know, legal compliance disasters can be a stiff blow to any company.
-10- Do Earn the Respect of your Employees.
Do minimize the hierarchy of your company, nobody thinks bureaucracy is useful for good teamwork. Earning the respect of your team means not being a dictator. Not being a dictator means using your team properly. This means having the social skills and the emotional intelligence to lead not by force, or rhetoric, but by action and collaboration. This means being vulnerable enough to let go of power, for the benefit of the company. This is ultimately what will earn you the respect of your employees:
To lead by example and empower the leadership of others, so they can lead by example with you.
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Mar 12, 2016