About ten years ago our founder, Tom Suddes, started to step away from the business. He wanted to focus on writing and speaking, not on running the business. He would step away and invariably – whether through passion or some other gravity-like force – get sucked back into the business. If you’ve ever observed this phenomenon, you’ve also experienced the challenges it creates.
From a leadership perspective, the founder is a ‘perma-leader.’ Even if you construct operational roles, preserving the operational structure is like working against gravity. The founder walks in with an idea and everyone can’t help but direct energy toward that idea.
This was challenging – for our founder, and for me, as President. We were either blowing up each other’s plans (unintentionally), or investing energy to ‘tread lightly’.
We ended up creating a role (and STORY) to break the tension and embrace strengths + role clarity. Tom became our Chief Spirit Officer. It was only natural for him to be the defining force and inspiration for our team. The CSO defined our… SPIRIT.. and by naming this, we were able to separate SPIRIT from VISION… INSPIRATION from DIRECTION.
I am lucky. We are lucky. It worked really well for us!
I find myself sharing this story and ‘frame’ more and more. Especially when larger-than-life founders try to ‘step back’. In some cases – not all cases – I think the founder can step aside from operations AND have a continued imprint. It requires that that Chief Spirit Officer and the CEO / President are in lock step, of course.