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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

CEO’s Alter Ego

I’ve already mentioned here several times different CEOs and their attributes, the most popular one was about Bill Gates. Generally I think that you need quite a strong individuality for that position. There can be only one leader. Yes, I know, of course Google is different in that area too. In vast majority firms I know you could easily point one person who is a locomotive of a train. Usually a natural leader with strong business and/or technical skills and a vision.

However natural leaders, who are most often (but not necessarily) CEOs need a kind of Alter Ego. Someone who more less shares general vision, but usually has quite different perspective when it comes to lower-level decisions. “Yes, we’re going south, but why do you think the train is the best means of transport?” “Yes, we’re dedicated to take this deal, but I’m not so sure we should take outsourcing of support services.” “Yes, we have some free positions, but we better don’t keep rotten apples just because good men are hard to find.” And so on…

Usually the Doppelganger is weaker than the Leader, but that’s good. His role is to keep the Leader constantly evaluating new ideas, knowing that they’ll face the Skeptic Guy. To keep the connection between the locomotive and the rest of the train. To catch Leader’s feet and bring them back to the ground.

I believe that’s very important, yet not very prominent role. The Alter Ego is sometimes considered as a brakesman or a dream-crusher. But take the company (no, not Google, I’ve already said that’s a bad example here) where there’s strong leader without his Alter Ego. Take the company you know well. Try to analyze their decisions – both good and bad. Then think how many of bad ones could be avoided with “evil twin” as an advisor of the CEO. Someone whose voice is respected but definitely not decisive. I guess quite a bunch of better choices could have been made.

That’s why if I looked for people to run a company I’d try to find both a dreamer and a realist.

in: entrepreneurship

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