As CEO and Founder of my own agency, I know this seems like a strange premise. But as someone who started and grew my own company, my perspective on it is definitely unique. The truth is, for a while, I was the CEO and Founder of a pre-revenue company of one. I did all my own marketing, sales, invoicing, content, social media and dish washing, yet my title was the same as that of the leaders of some of the largest companies in the world. How does that make any sense?
There's a saying that the person talking the loudest in the room is usually the weakest, I think this applies to titles as well. Doers rarely care about titles, whereas talkers usually need fancy or hyperbolic titles to stand behind. Now don't get me wrong, I understand in every company, there is a hierarchy, but in an era of unicorn startups does anyone even know what a "Wizard of Lightbulb Moments" or a "Chief Flavor Officer" even is?
The above argument notwithstanding, I admit that this conversation is very different in corporate world vs. small business world. If you're trying to climb the ever-challenging corporate rungs, associate to manager to director to executive is certainly a path that matters more. Maybe that is really the answer or rather the question one should ask when determining title importance, do I want to be in the bureaucratic corporate America, or not?
Titles can also be important in startup land when you don't have the dollars to give a salary bump to an employee, but you want to show them that they are valued at the company. But, we all know that only keeps employees happy for so long. More than ever, I think titles are used not to define a job role, but merely as guidance so that those we interact with can put us in a bucket or box that they understand or that provokes a dialogue.
Ultimately, no matter the position and no matter the company, we all wear many hats and things are not as black and white as they used to be. Environment, team and culture matter more to the next generation of employees than ever before. Companies that focus on that more than titles will find that their teams are happier, more productive and connected with their work and with each other.
Recently, I've given over titling and even job descriptions to my employees. As they evolve into different roles within the company, they find it to be a much more integrated and satisfying process, and I have found that they take more ownership over their position if it's one that they created for themselves. To me that's the most important title I can have, Chief Inspiration Officer.