I recently read articles about the job of a CEO being mostly mental and because of that, sucking. I’m not sure if I agree with those philosophies, but I know that what it takes to be a CEO is different than what a lot of people think.
There is a lot of unique stresses about the job and after just finishing a small series on what being in the CEO role at Dyn means to me, I thought it was important to talk about how the job is about building an organization that best serves customers. If you get joy from that (which you should), then the role is very rewarding.
There is a huge mental component to it.
As a first time CEO, I cannot even begin to think how relatively mature I am now as compared to my years-ago-self. I also have to mention that people around me would say that very little actually stresses me out, so maybe the pressures of the gig don’t really bug me. Ultimately, it’s about how you relate to the customer as they are the source of both love and hate.
We do the Gallup StrengthsFinder and there are certain types which deal with the mental pressures of the job better than others. According to StrengthsFinder, my strengths are Analytical, Self-assurance, Input, Arranger and Achiever. It does sound like a prototypical CEO and maybe it helps with the emotional weight. However, everyone handles it differently and there are no “best” combinations. If you have passion about solving problems, needs, and desires of others, then you too are made to be a CEO.
It is easy to take everything personally because you care so much and do have the power to fix everything. Believing that people need to make mistakes and take the reins has meant to allow others to fail and watch things slide to a level of quality that I find uncomfortable. If there is a practice that burns many CEOs out, I’d say it’s not learning how to let this happen.
As Dyn has continued to scale, that has meant straddling a careful line of constant vigilance and complete indifference. For me, it’s about knowing when and what to speak up about and playing a role of sheer influencer to see these improved. The saddest and greatest part is to become the chief problem solver and change to more of a mascot and soft director.
It is pretty lonely — there’s no doubt about that.
You have to be consistent and seem like you know what you’re doing. Doubt and second guessing are looked down upon, whether it is about staff, who the best customers are and where to take the company. Co-owners/co-founders and a network of people make that a lot easier though. They are also the same people that can help with the emotional toil of the job.
There are very few people that say they want to be a CEO when they grow up, but there are others who like to solve problems and do something positive for others — something that being a CEO ultimately entails. In addition to coordinating a company, you are trying to build an organization that is custom-built to solving a core customer need. If you don’t lose sight of that, the job of being CEO doesn’t suck at all.