Who’s in Charge, Anyway?

I am sure just about everyone has heard the term “too many chiefs” and may have even experienced this phenomenon at school or on the job. While this is almost always an unpleasant situation, it can be very detrimental to a new startup. Choosing who gets the title of CEO in a company can be a daunting task. One idea person would not dream of letting anyone else hold the coveted title, while another could avoid it all together. Deciding who will take over the top positions is not something that should be taken lightly. There are may factors that goes into making the final decision. Sometimes the end result yields success and, sometimes, it produces disastrous results.

Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan of Blogger, the blogging website that was created for the novice blogger, found themselves in a very sticky situation once the company began to take off. According to Noam Wasserman, author of “The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup,” there was “ambiguity about who was really in charge,” which “caused disagreements” and led to Meg’s untimely exit from the business (Wasserman, 2012.) Shortly after, all of the employees in the company were laid off. Cleary, the blurred lines of imprecision did not pay off for Blogger in the early days. Both Williams and Hourihan wanted to be chief, or CEO. As we can see, that model simply did not work. Although the blogging platform went on to be successful, it’s hard not to sit back a reflect on what could have been achieved if they had only thought more about how their roles impacted the company, their employees, and themselves. Desire alone does not make for a great leader.

One can only imagine the issues that arose when Williams and Hourihan got to the point where they needed to hire employees. Under the circumstances, it seems it would have also been very trying for them to choose their staff. For the sake of argument, let’s assume their creative differences carried over into the hiring process. Maybe one wanted team members who were familiar with the industry, while the other wanted people with more life experience as opposed to skills that were acquired in corporate America.  Inevitably, “it only makes since to find a pool of people who already possess the hard-to-teach skills that are vital to your company” (Herrenkohl, 2013.) That’s probably a feat best conquered by founders who do not “adopt overlapping day-to-day tasks” as did the founders of Blogger.

Deciding who is in charge and defining roles may not cause a rush of excitement for even the most seasoned entrepreneur, but it is a necessity, nonetheless. I think it is fair to say no one wants to find themselves in the middle of such a heated conflict as did Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan. The impending implosion of what was once a thriving venture is a scary thought. It makes me want to ask: “Can’t we all just get along?”

Resources

Herrenkohl, E. (2013). How to Hire A-players: Finding the Top People for Your Team- Even if You Don’t Have a Recruiting Department. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.

Wasserman, Noam. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2012. Print

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