Six Reasons Founders Aren’t Always The Best CEOs

There are many successful founder-CEOs. A few that typically come immediately to mind are Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Jack Dorsey. But with these founders considered, it’s important to understand that they are the exception and not the rule.  Even the best CEOs, like Google’s Larry Page and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, have stepped aside to allow others to steer the ship. Whether you’re currently a founder or thinking about spearheading your own startup, it’s important to understand that founders aren’t always the best CEOs. Here are a few reasons why:


1) Not Enough Experience

By default, company founders assume the roles and responsibilities of a Chief Executive Officer. However, imagine an individual with no upper management experience applying for a CEO role at a corporation. The chances of landing an interview, much less the position, are slim to none. This is because the responsibility of a CEO is different than that of a founder.

Many startup founders do not have experience running a company as a CEO, and therefore lack the experience necessary to grow the company. While founders are creative thinkers and passionate people, they don’t always have the ability to propel within the boundaries of a managerial office setup. Too much passion can hinder a person from making the right business decisions. CEOs, on the other hand, run a business as an operations person and don’t let passion and creativity distract the team from data-based goals.


2) Inability To Scale A Startup

As a company grows, scaling is critical. Scaling too quickly can destroy growth, and and scaling too slowly results in a similar demise. Some founders, intent on cultivating the “startup culture” become fearful of scaling towards a full-fledged corporate business. But if executed correctly, it’s possible to be a multi-million (or even billion) dollar company and still operate some areas of the business like a startup.

Infor CEO Charles Phillips is one non-founding chief executive that created his own recipe for running like a startup. Even with a leading software development company that has employees in nearly 40 countries, there’s room for startup best practices. Phillips is always available by email for any level employee and customers, and even created an internal creative agency to ensure every piece of Infor’s software was well-designed and on-trend. Other companies, like Google and Facebook, also work hard to keep a startup-like culture amid massive success.


3) Full Autonomy Can Be Difficult

It’s easier for founders to lead a company when there’s just a few people. Even when the business has enough revenue to create organizational departments, founders have trouble allowing others to lead their departments and make strategic day-to-day decisions on their own. This inability to relinquish full autonomy often makes it difficult for founders to take the company in a positive direction in the long-term


4) Limited Strategic Thinking

Founders are very passionate about their projects, and as such, may have a difficult time acting strategically. Many businesses, after market research or failure to produce market validation, are forced to pivot. Founders who are too close to the product or service don’t always have the gusto to do this. Rather than making decisions based on common interest, they may feel intensely connected to the core of what they started.


5) Execution Isn’t Easy

By nature, founders are visionaries. They come up with ideas and solutions for products and services that they believe will pave its way within an industry or niche. The dream up unique ways to tell a story and create innovative solution. However, it’s one thing to envision something, and entirely another to execute it.


Caroline Howard, a Forbes writer who wrote an article titled “Startups Don’t Fail On Ideas, They Fail On Execution” explained how the tumultuous process of raising capital is just one example of necessary execution that falters for founders.


6) Employees May Be Overworked

For many founders, their startup business is their baby, and they work to the bone to protect it. By the same standard, they expect others to follow suit. While founders themselves may stay in the office until well into the night, they tend to want their employees to demonstrate the same level of dedication. When this happens, the CEO may pass off some of their immense workload to their team, and without realizing it, create a tough work culture that favors late-night workers and employees who can sacrifice their work-life balance. Having a CEO takes off some of the load burdened by the founder, and disperses work in a much more manageable manner.