Becoming the CEO: Transitioning from follower to leader

Becoming the CEO: Knowing You Have What It Takes

When you choose to make the jump from employee to owner – will you have what it takes?  In Astronaut lingo, will you have the “right stuff”?  And what is the “right stuff” anyways?  How will you know if you do or don’t have it – and does it really matter as long as you have some stuff?!?

I’ll start by reading a quote from Zig Ziglar that hangs on a wall in my office, which reads, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”  This saying is there to remind me that from humble beginnings, great things can be accomplished.  If it’s the right challenge to pursue, you won’t know if you have what it takes – until you do. That’s what makes it a challenge and provides the chance for growth.  It’s the opportunity to take more risk than you have in the past, to accomplish more in the future, at the risk of losing everything that you’ve built that makes it a worthwhile challenge.  When you rise to the initial challenge, there’s another one that follows.  Rise to that one, and another one follows – and so it goes.

Zig Ziglar Quote

So why do it?  For the same reason talented athletes choose to compete in the Olympics…  If we don’t continually push ourselves to become better, we (by default) don’t become better.  By continually learning, changing, stretching, and discovering the right stuff within ourselves and others, we move forward as an individual and as a business.

What is the “right stuff”?  In basic terms, as an employee, it’s finding a need within your organization and applying your knowledge, skills, and intuition to provide a solution that makes you an asset to your organization.  As an employer, it’s those same things, along with providing the vision, leadership, structure, work, and training necessary for all of your employees to help your company and the individuals succeed.

It’s finding the answers to those things that keep you up late at night.  The understanding that you don’t have all the answers, but are open to discovering them.  Trust in your team’s feedback and your basic business instincts to make the hard decisions now, when they’re needed instead of weeks from now when it’s too late.

One of my Hero’s growing up has been Walt Disney.  Beyond the genius that evolved into what we know today, Uncle Walt was a simple man with a complex dream and above-average challenges, who realized his dreams and ambitions.

Walt Disney Quote

When confronted with a problem, I sometimes begin an internal conversation asking, “When he started out, did Walt know how far he would go with the simple drawing of his Mortimer mouse?”  Probably not at the time he drew it.  Did he form a vision for what he wanted to accomplish?  Absolutely, and it probably changed from year to year and challenge to challenge.  Did he try and fail – yes, many times.  Did he have all the experience needed to face every trial – no.  Did he give up trying – no.  In a like manner, that’s how we should be – open to challenge, open to change, willing to learn from mistakes, and dedicated to realizing our dreams, goals, and ambitions.

Anything less simply isn’t the right stuff.