Does that title strike you as strange? I suspect it does. But leadership is tough, and yet most of us give little thought to the care and feeding of leaders. They have to do it themselves, and, what's more, they virtually never get even a suggestion that they need to do that, much less guidance in how. A VC has a great post on this. And I suspect it is appropriate to school principals. I know it would be to superintendents.
But my advice to founders and CEOs who find that they have the weight of the company on their shoulders is to get some help.
And there are two sources of help I recommend.
The first is inside the company. A CEO/founder must surround themselves with people who they like, trust, and can lower their guard with. The best leaders have a "kitchen cabinet" of people they can be completely honest with and who they rely on for advice, counsel, and support. It is tricky to provide that back to the same people who are providing it to you, but you must try to make it happen.
The second is outside the company. I encourage every CEO/founder I work with to find someone that they can meet with at least once a week to talk to about their hopes, dreams, challenges, anxieties, and fears. I don't normally suggest a shrink, but a coach or a mentor who has no other agenda than to be your counsel and friend is critical. Most of the successful leaders I know has someone like this, at least for part of their stint on the job.
The bottom line is being a founder/CEO is a really hard job. It's even harder if you've never done it before. If you find yourself being slowed down by the weight of the company on your shoulders, find some people you can trust and be totally honest with to help you carry the load.
Think about it. School principals really report to a "board". No one person at the central office is their direct superior, responsible for building them up and helping them succeed. Rather, you've got a ton of folks empowered to meddle in their day-to-day activities, but with virtually no accountability for results.
And what about supers? They usually didn't set out to be CEO's and founders. They just moved up. And, along the way, the only time they were the "leader", they were principals -- and not supported. Then they get to the top, and they think being the "big leader" is going to make it better. And, instead, they find everybody dumping problems in their laps and an organization that, as noted, fails to support the critical leaders on which supers depend: principals. But, that's the way they were treated. That's the way all school systems are structured. How in the world are supers going to see the need to radically realign the roles of central office administrators vis-a-vis principals? As one administrator here in Nashville was heard to say, "I came to the central office because I like to tell people what to do!"
Finally, I should point out that school boards have to be about the worst boards around to work for! Generally, the members have little or no management experience. Most have never been on any board with a similar public profile and responsibility. The political nature attracts issue-oriented folks and bomb-throwers. Typically they have no clue how to evaluate the system's performance overall, much less any way to judge whether it's headed in the right direction. And, they want to "do something" -- that's why they ran for the post! But, "doing something" from the board level is quite often a REALLY bad idea, and the super often knows this, even if he or she cannot articulate why in a way that will work with board members. Great. What a position. And I campaigned for some of these jobs! What was I thinking?