The Dilemma of Founder/CEO/Owners

There is an inner conflict that exists in Founder/CEO/Owners that wasn’t clear to me 10 years ago.

The three roles/titles may sometimes be conflated when, in reality, each represents a different stakeholder perspective that must be reconciled with the others.

The CEO is an employee; she is hired by the shareholders/owners to hire and manage the team, and to deliver on the company’s commitments. This requires the CEO to play the role of a parent (please forgive the analogy until you read further) where she must be willing to take on difficult responsibilities, discipline, and difficult conversations with the team. It’s a tough, unpopular, and frequently thankless role, much like being a parent 😉.

The Founder, on the other hand, doesn’t see herself as an employee. She is passionate about the mission and would prefer to serve in a grandparently capacity with the team as cheerleader and bringer of happiness. She can afford to show her love and be popular thanks to the CEO’s role as parent.

The Owner, finally, is an investor. She has risked her capital because of her belief in the business and its potential to turn her investment into return in a capital efficient way. To her, this is one of potentially many bets she’s making within her portfolio.

Being CEO is thus less inner-conflict-inducing than being Founder/CEO. Adding in Owner to the mix makes it a trifecta of inner perspectives.

Every owner/investor seeks a great founder; every founder seeks a great CEO; and every CEO seeks a great team.

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