In a celebrity-driven culture and considering the hype around global startup salvation, you might start believing that founders are, indeed, some kind of superhero, different from the rest of us, and worthy of adoration.
But you would be wrong.
“Throughout history, narcissists have always emerged to inspire people and to shape the future. The ones who lead companies to greatness are those who can recognize their own limitations.” –Michael Maccoby (2000 Harvard Business Review article about the pros and cons of narcissistic leaders.)
A Fortune article, with heavy input from Zachary First, managing director of The Drucker Institute, does a good job kicking holes in the idea.
Star CEOs grow dangerous when they see their success as destiny, their place at the head of the pack as the only path possible, rendering all of their choices justified. The best leaders might enjoy the red carpet, that’s fine, as long as they understand that being the best fit for the CEO job is a relative status — relative to the needs of the rest of the people in an organization at a specific moment in time.
And fame, no matter how great it may feel, does not equal infallibility.
Steve Jobs is considered a star CEO, but it’s questionable whether he would be if he hadn’t brought in John Sculley, been dumped and then come back.
While it’s not good to believe you’re the smartest person in the room it is far worse to actually be the smartest.
There are many things you can do if you want to stay grounded; here are the basics.
- Hire people who are smarter than yourself;
- encourage feedback and don’t dismiss it;
- listen and hear what you’d rather not;
- build a culture with sans fear where the messenger is never killed; and
- don’t believe your own hype or drink your own Kool-aid.
And above all, stay aware.
Flickr image credit: Cory Doctorow