CEOs are expected to have all the answers. Many people think they have earned this distinguished title through brilliant decision making, superb business instincts and savvy insights.
But just because someone is a CEO does not mean they magically know everything or how to do everything. In fact, a true leader will admit to just that.
Likewise, being an entrepreneur or founder of a startup does not automatically make you an inspirational leader of people. It means only that you might have a great idea and some people might have given you money to see how far you can take that idea.
Founders and CEOs have many traits in common: They like to be in control and it’s difficult for them to step aside. They tend to be visionaries and optimists who can see the big picture and have a deep passion for their industry. Entrepreneurs typically tend to be more creative, more innovative and more likely to take risks. They have personality traits that have helped them get them where they are but that doesn’t instinctively make them great leaders.
What causes some CEOs and entrepreneurs to be bad leaders? Typically it’s fear — fear of failure, losing power or being found incompetent.
But any fear-driven endeavor is doomed to fail. The best leaders are those who embrace failure and understand that it’s necessary on the way to success.
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games, 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over, and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
— Michael Jordan
From a management and leadership perspective, nothing is more painful than to watch than a new CEO who believes he or she must instill a vision on everyone and stifle dissent. Some CEOs become so ruthless that they will clean house if their staff does not agree with them. These are the weakest of all top executives as this blatantly demonstrates that they lack any authentic leadership qualities.
True, authentic leadership does not come with a title and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone who receives venture capital funding. It is something that can cultivated over time with effort. Common traits of successful and effective leaders include integrity, flexibility, communication, quiet confidence, decisiveness, a positive attitude, being a good listener and the ability to inspire.
The qualities that make you a good founder or CEO don’t necessarily make you a good leader of people. Great leaders know when to get out of the way and let their team members take over.
A great leader knows he or she doesn’t have all the answers but that their teams do. They trust and listen to their teams and empower them to do great work. They clear the path for success.