Who is the CEO and what does this role mean?
Very often, when someone starts a new company, the first thing they do is order business cards. At this point the company hasn’t done anything yet, it has no assets or any income, but it has business cards. And on them is the authoritative inscription: CEO (or managing director). I find this a bit ridiculous, mainly because I am only a COO (chief operating officer). What does such a title mean and why is it so important? Is there a single salutary model, or is every manager different? Above all: how should a leader behave if he wants to build an effective company?
Leading a company is never easy. It doesn’t matter how many employees you have or how many years of experience you have. Each company and each employee is a new situation to adapt to. You cannot succeed in the same way twice, although you can use your previous experience as a basis. However, you have to start from scratch every day with a clean slate and complete uncertainty. This is true even if you know the whole company and think that there should be no surprises. I am sure there are such unexpected situations. There are countless facets to running a company. Being a CEO means that you are responsible for the whole company. You need to understand what the goals of your employees are and how you can synchronise them with the goals of the company. Or what the economic environment is like and what objectives you can afford to set yourself. So you need to act like an economic expert. No matter how many colleagues you have, in the end you are in charge and you have to decide.
You can learn
Many institutions offer management training courses. Even at the age of 20-21, you can enrol in a university’s management and organisation course. This is fine in theory, you can learn a lot, but the practice does not come with it. It’s like getting a driving licence, you can’t drive, but you already have the paperwork. At this age, although people are increasingly becoming entrepreneurs, you don’t have to run a company or be responsible for people. You may be able to lead small groups at work. But the real leadership experience comes with years of experience and situations. With mistakes, of course. It is likely that you would handle a situation very differently today than you did 5-10 years ago. In addition, a mentor can play a useful role in your life. Someone older (in business years, anyway) who you can accept as authentic and with whom you can talk about your business. He or she can offer some advice, even if you feel or sense that you are “just” talking.
Can you do everything?
These were just two of the many factors. But CEO is not a title or a nice-sounding word. Especially if you want a company that is constantly evolving, step by step. A decisive factor is also what kind of leadership style you represent. You may think that a company should be democratic, because goals can only be achieved together. Many leaders say that this is inefficient and that you have to be tough and assertive. These companies are like an army. Nobody likes it and they cannot work creatively because fear is a daily guest. If you’ve tried both, you’ve experienced first-hand the effectiveness of one or the other. Having a team going in one direction and everyone being intimidated is not nearly the same! It is also possible to work in a very good atmosphere along definite lines and make progress. Just as being too light-hearted and just chasing fun can bring down a company that is working with the most talented people. What is certain is that no one can get out of their skin. A man who is democratic in his private life cannot lead as an authoritarian and a man who is authoritarian at home will not be a democratic leader. The personality of each leader is embedded in the company he or she leads. Just as the DNA of a company changes with a change of leadership. And that’s fine, everyone’s handprint is visible and everyone adds something.
The CEO is always alone
In the end, you alone are responsible for everything. Many people look at managers or entrepreneurs with envy. “It’s easy for you because you’re the boss” or “It’s easy for you because you’re an entrepreneur”. Many times it is easy, but other times you have to see clearly on your own in situations where nothing is clear. The livelihoods of your colleagues and their families may depend on every decision, and that can be a burden. And company managers have bosses who expect results and hold them to account. As a small business owner, we can easily live with this: at the end of the month, we have to pay the loan, we need money to live on, for our families, and we soon find out whether we have been successful or not. In many families, this is a source of controversy and they do not support the entrepreneur. And in the end, sooner or later, these businesses wither away.
In a different light, the best way to be a manager is to lead. In many areas of the company, his or her knowledge is not necessarily better than average. But he surrounds himself with managers he trusts and who are experts in their field. True, that doesn’t help a small business. The exception is if he does things differently, more creatively. Just as you don’t need to employ a finance department if you have a good accountant, there are many areas you can organise in a similar way. It could be a management consultant, a coach, a headhunting firm or even a marketer. There are many areas where you can be successful with external experts, as long as your company size doesn’t keep these colleagues in-house. That way, you don’t have to hunch over every burden alone, and you can get a clearer, picture of the processes or their importance.
Democratic in music?
I read a book about Adam Fischer. He’s a world-famous conductor, so he acts like a CEO. But he doesn’t run a company, he runs an orchestra. The situations are similar, but the orchestra plays better music. Fischer is special because he also runs the orchestra democratically. He leads the orchestra, but the musicians have a say. Many times the conductor accepts this and from then on the whole ensemble plays a little differently. It’s almost completely unique, because in classical music there is a serious hierarchy. In most orchestras, it causes confusion at first because they are not used to this approach. Most people expect a firm conducting concept, which is strictly forbidden to deviate from. Although complete harmony can only really be achieved if everyone can bring their best to the joint production. The incredible thing is that the method works and we often read about how wonderful Fischer’s version of the music was.
How can there be more?
I don’t think CEO is a title. Something more than that. Maybe it is a mission, a vision and a responsibility. It’s a very complex job that you have to learn throughout your life. Above all, the CEO is not some kind of ruler, but rather a servant to his colleagues. The Ford quote is well known, that he had a lot of money because he paid his employees well. I think that is probably the best approach. You need to create the opportunity for your colleagues to take pride in their workplace and identify with it. This in turn will have a positive impact on sales, recruitment, morale and many other areas.