It's interesting that in a startup, you can go from a recent college graduate to a CEO overnight. Forget climbing the ladder, instead go straight to the top. Sounds like a pretty good deal doesn't it?
While this may seem great at first, leading a company for the first time quickly becomes harder and less glamorous than you think. One of the greatest challenges is to not let your title get to your head. It's easy to adopt a certain mentality when you're the leader of a startup. You start to feel that you can be more authoritative with teammates, and call all the shots. Many times, can feel that you are on a pedestal and in someway better than your teammates. It's these CEOs who destroy their companies through their ego.
To remain levelheaded, never forget the three points below. Whenever I feel that my title is making me egotistical, I use these three reminders to bring me back to earth.
1. Your Founding Team Put Their Future In Your Hands
When someone decides to join your vision, they are taking the risk because they trust you have their best interest at heart. Statistics point out that the chance of failing in a startup is incredibly high. Still, these people decide to defy the odds because they believe in you.
In return for this loyalty, your job as the leader is to always have the best interest of your teammates at heart. Remembering this will stop you from being selfish, and prevent you from deceiving your team. Never forget that when you sign up as CEO, your first job is to always look after your people first. When this is done, your teammates will look after you and the organization.
2. The Best CEOs Eat Last
When we were deciding on salaries for our company, most of the team expected that we would run like a typical corporate company. The CEO would make the most, followed by a hierarchy of importance. In this system, the newest and lowest employees on the ladder would get the least.
Instead, I decided to give everyone the same amount, except that I gave myself the lowest salary. I did this in part to send a message to my team, but I also did it to help myself. Time after time, I see CEOs of investment banks get confronted by their employees for the benefits they receive. The inflated salaries and perks go to the leaders, while the people the leader is supposed to look after suffers. I never want to lead Alumnify in that way. Eating last is a reminder to myself that I owe my team everything, and that my job is to take care of the people who trust me to lead.
3. You Must Keep Learning To Remain The Leader
I recently had a meeting with an investor, and asked him what to do about people who no longer can help the company. A 4-time entrepreneur, he told me his greatest advice was to understand that some people do not grow with the organization. The people you need on your team when you start the company compared to the people who you need to scale it is different.
This rule applies to you as the CEO as well. So if you want to remain in your position, you need to keep learning. When I first started my company, I was in charge of building the product. Then I shifted to sales, and then shifted into design. Now, I lead fundraising and marketing. While I love learning new things, the main reason I continue to push myself to learn is I want to grow with my company. I know that if I become complacent, someone hungrier and more determined than me will take my spot.