Can Founders Learn How to Be (Better) CEOs?

One of my core beliefs about “teaching” is that the common use of the word is wrong. Our job isn’t really to teach but rather to create situations and opportunities for students to learn. Much like Sherpas are used in Nepal by mountain climbers to navigate up a peak, the job of a teacher is to be used by students to navigate their education and learning.

I received some positive feedback from a few entrepreneurs on my recent post comparing the titles of Founder and CEO. Soon after, I realized that another difference is that there is no job description for a founder but there is for a CEO.

That got me thinking about my favorite blog post on what a CEO does, courtesy of Fred Wilson. He recounts a story about when he asked a fellow venture capitalist what a CEO’s job is. His colleague responded,

A CEO does only three things. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.

A lot of people argue that this is the kind of stuff that universities and professors can’t teach, and I agree. But I do believe that it’s the kind of stuff that can be learned. We just need institutions and people who know how to make that happen.


  1. Kelly S.

    I work at a company where the two founders are still the CEO and President, five years later. While some of that is luck and not all of it can be taught, I have to believe that the transition can be made, and that there is a way to learn the skills you need to grow with your company. Our founders started the company during business school and while I don’t want to get into that argument, it is worth seeking out those examples and understanding what lessons they’ve learned along the way.

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