Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel is 24 years old. He's the co-founder of a company worth $15 billion. 

As you can imagine, he's had to do some learning on the job.

"I'm not a great manager," Spiegel admitted during an on-stage interview at the Code Conference Tuesday evening. "I try to be a great leader, and for me that's been going through a process not of how to be a great CEO, but of how to be a great Evan. I've been trying to figure out what makes me a better asset to our team." 

He hasn't always been a great Evan. On several occasions in Snapchat's history, Spiegel has made unwanted headlines for his company by saying or doing things that betrayed a youthful lack of impulse control, whether it was sending bawdy emails to his Stanford fraternity brothers or bragging about dissing Mark Zuckerberg. He acknowledged that he could use some seasoning -- "Gosh, I hope I mature a little bit" -- but maintained that the live-wire quality of his mind is a crucial element of his success.

"I just try really hard to be me, and sometimes that means I'm unfiltered. I try to give people myself because I think making a great product is being in touch with how you feel about things and being able to express things," he said. "I really hope I can stay in touch with how I feel about things and I'm able to express that." 

Being an unfiltered leader is a delicate balancing act, and doing it successfully requires a commitment to damage control. "One of the things I'm trying to get better at is apologizing when I make mistakes. That's been a big priority of mine," Spiegel said.

One thing Spiegel has going for him is Snapchat's company culture. Because it started as an app for college kids who wanted to be able to send silly or embarrassing photos without regretting it later, the company has tended to attract the sorts of employees who are willing to forgive and forget. "Generally speaking, the people who come to work at Snapchat believe in personal growth," Spiegel said. "It's part of why Snapchat's stories are ephemeral, because you will be a different person tomorrow." 

Published on: May 26, 2015