Don’t break the bronco

Folks that join an early stage company or invest in early stage companies are both drawn to the same thing: an idea that is so compelling along with a founder/founders that are equally or even more compelling. 

But here’s the thing: the very best founders aren’t normal, not by a country mile. They are creative, ambitious, and likely crazy. It’s not that they have a high tolerance for risk, it’s just that they can’t imagine the alternative.

At the same time we are drawn to these folks we (employees and investors) expect these very same founders to become or act in a way that isn’t who they are. And in most cases, thankfully so. 

Board members can fall prey to this trap. They see a successful CEO in another portfolio company and they want (expect) the other CEO to replicate that behavior almost exactly. But forcing the founder to do things they aren’t is a recipe for a very unhappy/frustrated leader which does more damage than previously anticipated. 

Life isn’t perfect and no human is perfect either. The question is does the founder’s greatness exceed some of the human flaws. You can’t have it all. 

It is true, if you are going to scale as a founder/CEO you need to grow and improve your leadership skills. But at the same time, it’s our responsibility (team and boards) to avoid breaking the bronco.

We need to provide feedback and help supplement/support the CEO but not dilute or nuke the natural gifts that helped create the company in the first place.