The Myth of the Silver-Bullet CEO

Maybe it was the stale pastry. Maybe it was the lack of sleep. Whatever it was, though, when I heard my fellow board member say it, I felt like puking. “What we need,” he bloviated, “is a ‘world-class’ CEO.”

There it goes again, I thought, the myth of a new CEO as silver bullet. Too often we fall prey to simplistic, infantile thinking; we project all of wishes, dreams, and aspirations onto a single person or idea in the vain hope that they, finally, will solve our problems, calm our fears.

In businesses, I’ve seen boards fixate on the act of replacing the CEO. The problem with this is that, in a sense, we doom the incoming CEO to failure. No single person can fix everything.

Management is equally guilty. Sometimes a CEO, facing a monthly burn of a half a million dollars, will fixate on the one mega deal with the big Fortune 500 company (“and they’re thinking of investing as well!!”) as the solution to business model challenges. Magical thinking.

Even more troublesome, the myth often is built on an almost willful ignorance of the facts. If the CEO (or head of sales or head of marketing or CTO) really needs to be replaced—and, believe me, I know that that is often the case—then the troubles don’t end with that one person. If the CEO needs to be replaced, perhaps the whole team she built needs to be replaced as well. Or, even more insidious, perhaps the underlying business model is wrong.

Why do we do this? (And trust me, I’ve done this.) I don’t think it’s because we’re mentally lazy. I think we’re afraid to face the larger implications. When I was investor, it was often because I was afraid to admit I’d made a mistake in making the investment. Or we might be afraid to do the real work necessary to correct the underlying problem (like fire everyone, strip the business down to the barest minimum, and rebuild the business model—I once sat on a board where the CEO (the CEO!) drove just such a decision. It was scary and beautiful.). Or, even more frightening, to face the fact that the enemy, as Pogo said, is us; that the problem isn’t the CEO, or the head of sales, or even the business model but the board of directors.

Real leadership requires putting aside guilt and shame and facing fearsome facts. It would be lovely if a single magical bullet could kill the Werewolf. In business, indeed in life, there’s little room for magical thinking. As Fred Wilson’s former partner used to say: “Hope is not a strategy.”

And the myth of the silver bullet CEO is exactly that: hope as a strategy. In fact, it’s particularly deadly because it’s hope wrapped in the patina of lofty-sounding terms such as “world-class.”

There’s a place in our lives for magic and mythic heroes; just not in the board room.

  • panterosa,

    Isn’t hope+anxiety=attachment a buddhist concept of recipe for disaster?

    • jerrycolonna

      Exactly so. Why the hell didn’t I see that? Sheesh.

      • Wavelengths

        I thought it was completely obvious that “we are all connected,” and our thoughts and actions affect those around us in an ever-widening, limitless sphere of influence . . . and vice versa . . .

        Oh, wait! That’s a spiritual concept, not a business concept. I forgot.

    • Wavelengths

      Or, to turn this around, the board members will get further if they can evaluate the situation with “detachment,” moderated by compassion — for the investors, the present CEO and team, the creativity behind the original product/business concept, and those that might benefit down the line . . .

      • panterosa,

        Jerry speaks of us falling prey to projecting wishes, dreams, and aspirations onto a single person or idea in the vain hope that they will solve our problems. I would say in the age of aspirational living that it is very hard to separate real vision from all of the other images one has received, even those images we have of solutions. No matter how grounded we may be individually, we as a culture have completely absorbed aspirational living via the media – we live it. It affects our group relations, our “we”.

        Detachment must be used to know what it is you are serving. Who or what is the master? The product/company/CEO/bottom line/business model/vision/visionary? The wrong thing becoming the master may have started the crisis. Why are you all sitting in that room anyway? If it is the vision which drew everyone together and got them inspired, then only after you realign behind this purpose, renew your vows to it, can you bring passion back to the purpose, where it belongs. All the other images will be reduced to the white noise they are.

        • jerrycolonna

          What does it say about a blog (or a blogger) where those who comment are more articulate than the blogger?

          • Charlie Crystle

            says we’ve got a great blogger

          • Wavelengths

            May I suggest that you are inspiring us to access our collective intelligence?

            As we share this conversation, we become greater than the sum of our individual selves.

            Thanks for opening this forum, and giving us all nourishment for greater thoughts.

          • jerrycolonna

            Thanks guys. And Wavelength, I think you’re especially right about the sum of the parts being greater.

  • Peter Cranstone

    Totally agree. Brining in the “Silver Bullet” really means a change in leadership, team, tactics. Strategy, Focus… and the piece they all forget is the shareholder dilution, the loss of customer focus and the cost in time and money while they get their act together. I feel like saying “how’s that hope/change thing working out for you”.

    Nobody gets it right the first time around, the key is being able to “learn and adapt” and the focus on a common plan under one leader. The teams role should be to make the leader look good and vice versa. Bringing in the new guy means all that goes out the window for at least 9 months.

    Having been in situations where this has happened (I’ve been the one pushed out) I can now measure exactly what it costs. In one instance it was 10’s of millions of shares and 4 years plus a huge burn rate. Investors should really look at the hard costs before they bring in the Silver Bullet. As the old saying goes – turnarounds rarely turn around.

    • jerrycolonna

      The two most successful CEO “replacements” I ever participated in had one thing in common: the former CEO/founder stayed with the company. In one instance, he became chairman of the board (and a very effective one at that). In the other, the former CEO became the chief evangelist–which turned out to be a real job focused on lead-generation (and not some nonsense job the investors give the brilliant but young founder to get them out of the way). In both instances, the egos of all four folks (the two former CEOs and two incoming CEOs) were such that they allowed the others to exist comfortably. Even more, we directors–for the most part–stayed out of it and allowed the two pairs to work things through. It wasn’t always sweetness and light but it worked and value was unlocked (as the pundits like to say) instead of being destroyed.
      Now that said I don’t mean to imply that firing or replacing someone isn’t the right thing to do. Often times it is. It’s the attachment (as panterosa pointed out so well) to the myth of this one move solving all the problems that often times is the major problem.

      • Peter Cranstone

        Bingo… It’s all about the right “Roles and Responsibilities” and then ensuring alignment. Do it right and the stakeholders benefit. Very few founders make good CEO’s, but they can make great Chairmans and or Evangelists. VC’s should place them in those positions first to see if they can succeed. Founders need to believe and be attached. Remove that and essentially you’re cutting off the head of the company and the reason for it being there. Very few survive from a startup.

        As you say – find the value and then unlock it and let it succeed. Everyone benefits.

        • jerrycolonna

          “Remove that and essentially you’re cutting off the head of the company and the reason for it being there.” and many times the heart, soul, and glue of the company.

          • Peter Cranstone

            Yep. And this is where you really find out whether or not you have a good Board. Remember my post about my first Board meeting. They overlooked my lack of maturity and understanding and instead helped me succeed. So many startups forget about helping others be successful and it becomes about ego. We all learn – just at different rates, so lets try and keep the team together and focus on achieving the goals, vs. the old I win you lose scenario.

          • jerrycolonna

            I suppose I’m feeling compassionate and understanding in this moment…I think it’s about ego for so many because, in pouring your blood, sweat, and soul into the thing, your sense of self merges with it.
            That said…you’re right about the board.

  • Wavelengths

    And the way the guy uses the term “world-class CEO,” he’s probably thinking of a charismatic, high-energy new CEO, who will promise immediate results, and who will “take charge,” and “do what’s necessary,” and “heads will roll” . . .

    Um, . . . that looks like a welcome sign for the next narcissist who’s looking for a soft landing from his last job, which he left for murky reasons. Which might be related to issues such as bullying?

    Cranstone has a good handle on the costs of an ill-considered transition.

    • jerrycolonna

      It’s that phrase, “world-class,” that I find so grating…not only does it imply these things, wavelength, it also denigrates those who are already in place. The implication is that everyone else–including the board member themself–isn’t “world-class.”

      • honam

        I really hate that term “world class” CEO. People who say that look for people with gold plated resumes – prior CEO experience, “domain expertise” and a top notch education. The CEOs of our largest companies have average tenures of 9-10 years. They learned on the job. None had prior experience as CEO nor domain expertise. 2 of them were named E&Y Entrepreneurs of the Year for their regions in 2009. I’d rather take my chances with a passionate entrepreneur who is willing and able to learn any day over some suit with a fancy resume that keeps hopping from company to company.

        • jerrycolonna

          There’s a real role for experience and knowledge. And I’ve seen plenty of examples of “non-entrepreneurs” making the leap from a stable larger company to a smaller startup and succeeding. My problem is when we overload that person with expectations of dramatic, magic success. Or when that person comes in with an overly well-fed and inflated sense of self. That’s trouble.

  • Charlie Crystle

    I was in that situation at ChiliSoft. I was just a kid from a small town, what could I know? So we hired a guy who didn’t get the technology, wasn’t properly vetted, and I was put in the CTO/Evangelist role, which I took seriously. Until I saw how poorly he was managing things.

    It took me 5 months to convince the investors that it wasn’t merely a “communication” problem, as they put it. We spent a day at a retreat (posed as a strategy session, but it was really an evaluation) and by the end they agreed. Skipping messiness and a lot…took over the spot, got us focused on customers and revenue (it worked), recruited and hired my replacement. Leaving out lots of details, of course.

    And that’s where the “world-class CEO” came in. I’ll give him one thing–he really knew how to sell a company. Aside from that, though, it was another exercise of hoping in one hand and pissing in the other to see which one fills up first.

    I’d love to see a post on the messiness–the conflicts between founders and the CEOs they agree to hire, and your experience with how that worked out.

    • jerrycolonna

      Good suggestion Charlie. I’ll repeat an observation I made in the comment above…where I’ve seen the messiness managed well is when the egos of all involved were able to be put aside and room for each was made. It takes a lot for the incoming CEO, for example, to step aside and allow the founder/previous CEO to continue to be the face of the company for customers. But in the one case I cited above, it worked beautifully.

      • Charlie Crystle

        it’s great when it works well. definitely a great lesson for me–lots of good stuff to mine for growth.

  • stukirk

    Yep.. done it ( at least from the point of view of IT), looking for the silver bullet when all other hope is lost, even though in your heart of hearts you know it’s a high risk strategy born more of hope than logic.
    God, I wish someone had made the comment about facing fearsome facts.. how my life and a bunch of others would be better and different.

    • jerrycolonna

      Thanks stukirk. I didn’t explore the notion of the “idea” as a silver-bullet enough. I think that phenomenon is even more common and maybe even more deadly. We all get fixated on a single concept (“If I buy this car, then everything will be great.”). And that grasping and attachment and fixation is the root of the problem.
      Facing things as they are, admitting them, owning them, and dealing with them…dang that’s awfully tough. But powerfully transformative.

      • panterosa,

        “If I buy this car” or lose those 5 lbs is about living in the future, of when I am who I want to be, implying that now is not good enough, and neither are we good enough in this now. As Jerry says “Facing things as they are, admitting them, owning them” is tough but “transformative”.

        If only embracing the messiness of the now were sexier, or a more populated place, I doubt people would avoid it so much and mentally live in what Stevie Wonder called “future paradise”. Pulling back those expectations and from the future, bringing focus back to the “now”, is a way of ensuring better “nows” in the future. That now, where the real connection starts, and the transformation can begin, seems to be the focus of this blog and I think why it is so engaging and successful.

        • Tereza

          Some people need just a nudge. Some people don’t do anything until they’re proverbially whacked in the head with a two-by-four.

          I’m pretty sure that people who can activate on just the nudge are both happier and more successful in all facets of life and business.

          Personal life experience plays so deeply into how we respond to unexpected bad surprises. I think there is ‘muscle memory’ which can be developed through profound experiences (notably death of someone very close) which, for those open to it, can evolve them to a stance of life is short — let’s not BS or waste time”.

          I’ve had conversations with folks where the person is living in LalaLand, or seems rocked to the core by the littlest thing. In peeling the onion, what often comes out is they’ve never really had to deal with any life crap.

          On the other hand — when getting to know someone who shares their tough stuff — instant bond and respect. And then we can really roll up our sleeves and get things done.

          • jerrycolonna

            “when getting to know someone who shares their tough stuff — instant bond and respect. And then we can really roll up our sleeves and get things done.” Amen. I remember meeting Pema Chodron one time…and after struggling to speak coherently with her, she just patted my hand and said, “You think you’re open, honey, but you’re not open enough. Keep opening.”
            I think part of the focus, part of what I’m trying to do here, with this blog, is facilitate a place where people can share the tough stuff–especially as it relates to the existential issues keyed off by thoughts about work/life.
            Keep peeling the onion as you say Tereza.

          • Tereza

            That’s funny story. Thanks for introducing me to Pema. Based on a quick wiki I’d like to get more familiar with her. I’m doing a startup (my first at the helm) and it’s profoundly motivated by loss I’ve experienced. In a really good way.

            I’ve been doing some thinking about motivation, particularly as I look for a partner and other core team members. So important, because this is where the culture is set.

            One thing I grabbed onto last week was the concept of Chips. As in, “I have a huge chip on my shoulder”. So I’ve developed an armchair theory about them. Last week I shared with someone my big chip (that I’ve made other people massive amounts of $, but never for me). I interviewed a potential tech-founder and asked him about his chip. I liked his chip. I sense our chips are aligned. That’s a good start.

            I’d be interested, perhaps now or maybe in a future post, your thought on “chips”, motivations, etc. How do you reveal them, how do you align them. When are they explosively misaligned (and possibly unfixable). What chips are good, what chips are not so good — when should you run for the hills. I feel, at this moment while I write this, that someone’s chip could be 50% of what you’re getting in a person when you bring them in.

            Anyway, something to chew on!

          • Wavelengths

            As humans, we have certain core “hard-wired” motivations that are in each of us. Sex, food, power/control, social connection, risk-taking/”adrenaline rush.” I think I’m forgetting one or two more. But, as individuals we may have these in different measures. Some people are 98% power/control with precious little desire for true social connection. It seems these core motivators, that then define personality, are aligned with pleasure centers in our brains. A “foodie” might stop off a the little deli on the way to the “big meeting,” willing to be late rather than pass up a delectable treat, etc.

            I don’t think this is what you meant by “chips,” but it’s something to look at when you are learning about another person.

            When I see high elements of power/control with un-moderated attraction to risk, I get very, very quiet and I watch very carefully. (Before I think about running!) Unfortunately, I think too many times the person who gets chosen to be Jerry’s classic “silver-bullet CEO” might match that description. Many of us feel comfort when we feel we can turn over decisions to someone who will be “in charge.” But that sort of personality will project authority, without necessarily having the goods to move forward with responsibility and with the necessary humility to gather information before acting.

          • jerrycolonna

            Agreed. That’s why I think the myth, the belief in the single antidote to all of the problems, reveals our inherent infantile nature.

          • jerrycolonna

            So a “chip” is an attitude, a belief, that causes resentment and then acts as a catalyst for something greater. Hmmm. Interesting thought. Like the time one of my bosses told me I was a fool for taking a promotion that would take me out of his department.
            “You’re going to end up in a dead end at this company,” he said.
            Then he looked me at said: ‘I know what you’re thinking…you’re thinking, ‘He’s wrong and I’m going to prove it.'”
            Of course he was wrong about the first statement and right about the second. It was delicious when, later, as a hot-shot VC, he came to me looking for a job.

          • Tereza

            Exactly! Something that gets your craw and compels you to prove people wrong. And as you said — deee-lish when you do!

        • jerrycolonna

          The thing that most people don’t realize–probably because they’re too afraid–is that once you get a little used to it, embracing the messiness of now is actually kinda fun.
          Thanks too for helping to identify the focus of the blog. The truth is, I still struggle with that.

          • panterosa,

            Being with someone so real and present is so disarmingly charming in these days of puffery and self-branding. Those people who are comfortable with the messiness, who don’t need to define themselves, are fun to be with, most often because they are not selling you on a well crafted concept of self. I agree with Tereza that often a loss is what brings someone to that moment of being real, vulnerable and comfortable with sharing their imperfections and mistakes, of not needing to tell you who they are but let you make up your mind for yourself. Humility. And humor.

            Perhaps that is the real “star quality” you actually allude to in the silver bullet/world class concept. Except in the silver bullet theory the board wants others to have their “star” rubber stamped, letting them off the hook for any responsibility, “bullet-proofing” their choice, while also allowing the board not to have to see if the fit is really right in the larger scheme. The right fit is the new black.

            I think this ties together the previous posts on Bullies and Monsters. Bullies, in my experience, hate themselves and will go to many lengths to not let you find out that fact, and not let themselves find out that fact, manipulating you into thinking you are wrong so that they can be/feel right. I have compassion for them in as much as a bully is usually raised by a bully so it is a learned defense in a genetic chain of discontent. Monsters are really our own fears of being real, being ourselves fully and taking that risk. Neither the Bullies nor the Monsters embrace the now with authenticity nor take any joy in being real.

            That you have created a safe space for these dialogues to happen is a gift.

          • jerrycolonna

            So maybe we should alter the definition (or, more likely, take it back) of the phrase “world-class” to mean someone who has actually experienced a failure, a loss, and–as a result–has grown by it. Maybe we should be looking to add real life experience and the ability to be open and to lead with an open heart. (I recommend Michael Carroll’s Awake at Work for more on this.)

          • jerrycolonna

            Oh and the gift is most definitely two-way.

          • Tereza

            LOL — the way that came thru on e-mail was that it was a response to yourself but your message was “the gift is two way”. Funny!

          • jerrycolonna

            Well really…I’m always just talking to myself.

          • Tereza

            maybe this is the sound of lots of one hands clapping — together.

          • panterosa,

            In the back of my mind while I wrote was the message of a favorite book, The Innovation Paradox, formerly titled Whoever Makes The Most Mistakes Wins. One part talks of the learning curve and how to get over it quickly: double your failure rate. It speaks of the misuse of the concept failure with regards to success, failure being not the opposite of success but the steps leading to success. It also speaks of smart companies wanting CEO’s with past big failures as being an appeal, not a drawback, for a company in hiring, because that person can weather problems. Yes world-class should include experience of the real world.

          • Tereza

            Panterosa I really dig that. You reminded me of a parallel. I used
            to do a lot of foreign language learning. I had an armchair theory (I
            have many) wherein there is an empirical number (“N”) of mistakes one
            has to make before speaking the language really well. So the best
            thing is to plow through them as fast as you can by talking in
            language and don’t let the mistakes weigh you down. Just do it.

            It also feels emotionally really similar to, say, a startup CEO
            because you’re saying things publicly, they’re tied inextricably to
            you as a person, and in fact you’re not really sure if much of what
            you’re saying is true or correct.

            Interesting. I’d been having this emotion, couldn’t place it but it
            was very familiar (like exercising unused muscles).

            Thanks, Panterosa! Gave me a kick of confidence– like I have been
            here before.

          • panterosa,

            Glad you liked it. I have done foreign languages as well. Mistakes are where the fun happens and the laughs start. Abroad, I once asked a a person in a booth selling lottery tickets for directions. He was angry at me and went into a tirade I only half understood, and only later I found those tickets are sold by the blind! In teaching children to learn language the message I try to impart is not to fear the mistake, it will usually be funny, and the laughter will form a bond. And that’s why we are communicating after all. Dive in.

            I hear the N number in preschool is 35, but that was a while ago.

            Perfection can be so dull, dry, and humorless. As success can be. In Innovation Paradox, some successful people rued how it had removed them from being with the less successful at their craft. They felt they learned little without those struggling around them because there was less interesting discussion. The contact they had with highly successful people was boring in comparison, more resting on laurels than striving and growing.

          • Tereza

            My dad, chief engineer of a factory, used to walk the plant every day,
            and stop station by station, talk to each guy to see what they were
            doing and try it out, to see if his designs were working. A couple
            times he brought me.

            You know when these kinds of guys show up at his funeral many years
            later, that he had an impact. It really moved me.

            Whatever a business’s version of “walking the plant floor” is, it’s a
            must — to integrate with all the beautiful, messy realities of the
            business. That leader has to be totally passionate about linking the
            big vision to the “shop floor”.

            On the language front, how’s this. Last week a friend kindly reminded
            me how in 1992 in Prague I called up an office hoping to interview
            some woman, say ‘Ms. Novak’. But Czech is hairy grammatically and
            with the slip of a vowel I asked for ‘Virgin Novak’. Big laugh on the
            other end and then response: “We don’t have any of those here. But of
            you want Ms. Novak, here she is.”. Later that same week I ordered
            chicken t*t for lunch instead of chicken breast.

            I resolved then and there not to care — there was power in
            entertaining those strangers. They thought it was kinda charming and
            raw and many became friends.

          • jerrycolonna

            One of the questions I’ll often ask a client is, at the end of their career, what do they want people who worked for them to say about them. And then I suggest that you start living your life to make that aspiration a reality. Somewhere along the line Tereza, your father learned the value of human contact. And, as you note, if the “big vision” doesn’t have roots in the “shop floor” then it’s missing heart and soul.

          • Tereza

            That’s an important question, and artfully worded.

            I worked with a coach briefly. She was really good, and we got a lot
            of great work done. Then she gave me the exercise “When you’re 80 and
            looking back on who you were and what you’ve done, what are those

            Totally fair question. But it triggered an uncontrollable crying fit.

            See, neither of my parents made it to 80. My mental model is I
            probably won’t either; it’s kinda beyond my wildest dreams. So I
            don’t really dare to wish it or plan backwards from 80. Or any other
            number. That’s too scary and has lost all logic to me. For now I’m
            on the ‘if I get hit by a bus today am I OK with choice X” camp and
            use that to guide decisions.

            I never would have thought that wording could have such an unintended
            effect, but there you go. We all have our blockages.

            I haven’t really felt compelled to go back to her, I needed to
            marinate in that for a while and it gave me a nudge for work I could
            do on my own. What a priceless realization though.

            OK enough kimono opening — gotta go get work done!

          • jerrycolonna

            One can never open the kimono enough…okay…MAYBE that’s not true.

          • jsrand

            Wow, what a great question, and one I am embarrassed to say I don’t think I ever answered myself. And the answer for me actually came almost instantly, and has to do with teaching and mentoring. Now I have to figure out what to do with that morsel of self-knowledge.

            Great to see you back in the blogosphere, Jerry.

          • jerrycolonna

            Thanks Jay…and welcome.

          • panterosa,

            Tereza, I would be remiss if I did not respond to your post regarding your father visiting the assembly line and the loyalty that generated. It was touching for you personally, brought you again into the team who produced your father’s designs, and brought you into the big picture of all the faces who made the design exist. Without those people the work may not have succeeded, but it also imbued a humanity to the history of things your father designed. Engineers/designers should really be obliged to embrace this practice of visiting the floor or assembly line, and even the consumers, to see how their designs are working out. Real dedication to design is for it’s end user, and as the object of the exercise, to improve living through good design – in my mind a high form of dedication to humanity.

            This top to bottom approach and dedication to the user of the product should be taught at design school, similar to how doctors should be taught to have a good bedside manner. Integrating the product, fully down to the user, as a chief goal, should really be the focus in this advanced age, along with the humility towards those you work with and those you serve.

          • jerrycolonna

            “Real dedication to design is for it’s end user, and as the object of the exercise, to improve living through good design – in my mind a high form of dedication to humanity.” This is exactly why I’ve fallen in love with this community.

          • Tereza

            Panterosa thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful post. You made my day.

            There is so much to be explored around the concept of “integrating” — with end users, with patients, and I think there is tremendous value in extending this thinking in many directions.

            It’s interesting that you bring up medicine. My dad’s dad was a surgeon in Slovakia from roughly 1900-1950 and founded a sanatorium (hospital) in a small city. In that old-world model the doctor was a key part of the fabric of the community. He knew everyone he was treating, they knew him, they saw each other around town. I have to imagine that in this level of integration was as great foundation for bedside manner, follow-up, accountability, and ultimately, caring. I’ve heard stories from that era and I know it had an impact on my dad.

            Our society has lost that type of inter-relatedness.

            Today, so many businesses, institutions and functions are structured and rewarded on being “dis-integrated”. It’s hard for people to see a process from end to end, and consequently to ‘own’ the results as they relate to human beings. It’s hard for them to relate enough to allow themselves to care (other than reducing # of customer services complaints).

            There are also massive segments of society from whom we have completely dis-integrated. Aging adults, for example. We are incredibly siloed and the way we live, there are extremely limited opportunities for people to relate meaningfully with others who are different from them, who don’t reside in their socioeconomic/age/racial/gender/professional “cell”. Especially kids. They need exposure to others, to skill them for later.

            I’m signing off for a week….taking my little girls to VT to teach them to ski!! So they will be my focus. Looking forward to tapping back in when we get back. I’ve greatly enjoyed this conversation.

          • jerrycolonna

            We’ll miss you Tereza. Enjoy the time with your kids. One of the unexpected gifts of having started this blog is the way folks are connecting. It’s a joy to witness.

  • Pingback: Colonna examines myth of “silver bullet CEO” | Solid Startups()

  • Tereza

    Sounds very much like a young woman hoping…ahhh dreaming …for Prince Charming to sweep her away from her troubles.

    Totally unproductive to all involved.

    Except for Prince Charming…so long as he’s still raking in his fat paycheck. Until he inevitably buckles under the pressure to perform under ill-defined expectations.

    Enjoyed the post and comments. Thanks!

    • jerrycolonna

      LOL. Exactly Tereza…there’s no one “solution.” No one person, pet, pill, consumer good, new product your company can develop, notion, coach, idea, that will–all of itself–be the “answer.” That’s the kind of magical thinking that gets people into trouble.

  • aweissman

    My favorite venture investor in the world is so opposed to the silver bullet CEO myth that he has a policy – he as a board member/investor will never replace a founder as CEO – b/c even opening up to that policy leads to lazy thinking.

    • jerrycolonna

      That may be a bit extreme but it’s a great starting place.

  • kirklove

    Found your blog via Fred Wilson’s. Really enjoying it. Thanks.

    Interestingly when I read this I left the corporate word and immediately thought of Obama. How we as a country (and certainly myself) looked at him as the “word-class” President. The one man that will cure all our ills with his charm and repartee. Turns out an ineffective Congress (and lobbyists) has thwarted that. A great leader is important, but a great team working in concert is vital.

    • jerrycolonna

      Great example (and I was guilty of doing the same thing)…placing my hopes and dreams on one person and expecting far too much.

      • Tereza


  • briangryth


    H. L. Mencken once said “for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” (A qoute I keep tape to the white board in my office).

    Thanks, Brian

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  • Ryan Graves

    This is the golden nugget for me. I’m going to be repeating this everyday, in the morning, for a week…

    “Real leadership requires putting aside guilt and shame and facing fearsome facts.”

    Thanks Jerry.

    • jerrycolonna

      Thanks Ryan for the kind words. Of course it’s easier to sit back, opine thoughtfully and say such things…easier than to live it every day. One thought occurs to me this rainy morning…what does it take for one to be a real leader in our own lives, to put aside the guilt and shame, and face the fearsome facts of our own lives?

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  • Ben Landers

    It seems to me that the search for the silver bullet or magic pill is about the avoidance of hard work. The easy road doesn’t exist and it’s a rewarding day when you finally stop searching for it. Take the hard road. There’s much less traffic.