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So we're all to be "CEOs" at "startups", I suppose?

Warning: I was in bit of a ranting mood as I boarded a late-evening bus back to NYC when I started this post, but didn't get around to finishing it much later, so the tone may change a bit. :)

There's an interesting interview with Mark Pincus., well.. there's an interview with Mark Pincus, in the NYTimes.

Now Zynga is extremely successful right now, and Mark Pincus seems like a pretty smart guy. I was at a conference where Pincus was on a panel and he was by far the most interesting and opinionated person there, and clearly pretty sharp.

But I have a problem with this article. I find the "everyone is a CEO" terminology annoying and condescending. Why on earth do people feel like they need to be told to be the CEOs of something to do their job well? The real problem I have with this: its seldom true. I appreciate the power of the words to inspire and the empowerment that people feel when you tell them this. For example, you're probably a lot more likely to think outside the box and take responsibility if you're told you're the "CEO of solving problem X" than if you're told to go "solve problem X." The problem is: you're likely to get more annoyed when you're told they can't do what you're suggesting because someone else changed their mind or until you have a couple of presentations or until the budget is approved next month or .... you get the idea.

This annoys me almost as much it does when people tell me they work at a "startup" which has been around 15 years and been profitable for most of it. You're not at a start-up son, you work for a small company and you should be proud of that.

Like I said there's power in words and imagery though; and employees can be much more effective when they truly believe they're CEOs or at a startup. The challenge though, is that those who confer the "CEO" and "startup" titles rarely believe it, and even more rarely empower people enough so that it rings true on a sustainable basis for them.

  • don't use the metaphor, unless you back it up
  • don't fall for the metaphor, ever.


Brad Feld said…
I wrote a longer post about this idea at
navinsamuel said…
I guess I know your reasons... very often heard from someone we both know?

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