Last year, I served as the Director of our largest program at the Entrepreneurs Club, the Husky Startup Challenge, in addition to being the interim Vice President of the organization. I had the honor of working directly under Aaron Gerry, who was President last year and graduated in May 2011. During that year, Aaron served as a mentor and guide for me. I looked up to him and depended on him when I needed help or got stuck with a problem… and he was always there for me.
Having someone there for you is the key here – you get that privilege as a VP, a manager, an assistant or as an employee. You have a boss that you can defer to for big decisions, and who is responsible for you if you make a mistake.
Well fast forward a year and I was promoted to President. I was beside myself with joy and excitement. Finally, I got to set the vision, lead a group of my peers and architect the building of something great at Northeastern. As I settled into the role, I suddenly realized, “Oh wow, Aaron isn’t here anymore.” And it was then that I realized how much I leaned on Aaron the year before. Because if I messed up, it was Aaron’s problem. If I missed a deadline or couldn’t figure something out, it was Aaron who had to pick up the slack. Now, things are very different. If I mess up, it is my problem. And if any single person on my team messes up, it is my problem. If something doesn’t get done, guess who has to do it?
I didn’t understand it at all until this year, and I couldn’t understand it until I had the honor of being in the top role in an organization. As the President or CEO, you have to worry about everything, because you are ultimately responsible for everything. Instead of a budget for one business unit, you might oversee 6 different budgets. You go from managing assistants and team members in your division to managing the managers who manage the assistants and team members. That’s a tongue twister.
So what is the big takeaway?
I have a lot of respect for anyone in the CEO role.
Especially in large organizations, these folks have a tough job. They really are alone in their role. They can (and should) ask their team for plenty of input. But ultimately, they are the ones that have to make the big decisions. And they are the ones that are ultimately responsible for the outcome of those decisions.