Why being a CEO is such a lonely hard job

Being a CEO is a lonely hard job. You are a Single Point of Failure. If you fail, the company suffers. Great CEOs help make the world a better place. But the upsides come with downsides. There is a price to pay for being a CEO.

  • It’s lonely. With the most difficult decisions, although you as CEO may get good input from many, you are alone – entirely alone. Being a CEO might be the loneliest job on the planet.
  • The responsibility is all-encompassing and constant. There are times when you would like not to be responsible, even just for a short moment. But you are always responsible. You are a Single Point of Failure (SPOF). If you fail, the company suffers.
  • You must live in multiple universes at the same time. The company needs a solid Plan A at all times. But in your mind, you must juggle other plans – Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, and so on. You must be able to entertain multiple possible scenarios while falling prey to none of them. You will not always feel confident, but somehow you must find a way to radiate genuine confidence anyhow – without faking it.
  • You were hired for your strengths, and you must figure out how to manage your weaknesses, something all human beings have. You need to be honest enough about yourself so that you can hire a team around you that makes those weaknesses irrelevant.
  • CEOs are being judged in all possible manners by the world around them, many times based on superficial or partial information. It is only much later that the true results will be clearly visible to everyone.

When you cope with all of the above, you can become a brilliant CEO. But the ultimate test of how good you are comes only when you leave. The most stellar CEOs leave behind them organizations that succeed and flourish even when successors take over, because those leaders didn’t create followers, they created more leaders.

Despite all this, let’s be clear: being a CEO is a wonderful job. Once you learn the tricks of the trade and get comfortable in the role, it can become the absolute fulfilment of your professional aspirations, bringing about world changing companies, organizations and products. And as CEO you have the opportunity to create an inspiring environment for your colleagues and to create more leaders.

Mårten Mickos

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