I found in interesting that Twitter has announced its third CEO over the last few days. Twitter was started by Jack Dorsey and then headed up by Evan Williams (who had founded Blogger earlier in his career) and now Dick Costolo (who previously founded feedburner) is the new CEO. Comparing twitter to the other social network giant, Facebook – which has only had Mark Zuckerburg running the ship – that’s a lot of leaders. But that doesn’t mean you have to have one CEO the entire time to be successful. In fact I think these two examples are clear examples of the two types of successful scaling leaders.
Founders can adapt, by committing to find a mentor, realise their weaknesses and bring in senior management who can plug their gaps and give them really good guidance. Think this has worked a fair bit for Mark Zuckerburg, Mark has a great board, including people like Marc Andreesen, he’s brought in some great leadership (eg. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, is a legend). It works for Facebook, Mark might be the face and he might be the subject of films, but I would bet that Sheryl and the other senior managers are able to secure the right partnerships and help the company scale effectively.
On the flip side founders can bring in people and then hand off responsibility when it grows beyond their capabilities. Regardless of how the handovers have happened at Twitter, Ev knows that Dick is a better front man for the company as it scales beyond Ev’s capabilities and putting Costolo in place is a great strategy as the company grows on to the next level.
This all goes back to self-awareness. Are you a Jack Dorsey, an ideas guy who can establish a product? An Ev Williams, who can help scale and grow a company? A Dick Costolo who can take a really big company and really grow it into a potential 9-figure exit or even an IPO? Or are you a Mark (or for that matter a Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and a few other special leaders), who can take the company from idea to real scale at a point where the world is coming into contact with your company everywhere? Knowing if you can and want to adapt as the company grows is really important and ultimately will help dictate the level of success the company will have.