Leadership – CEO vs CTO

CEO Augusta
Henry Ford was once put on trial in a court of law. The attorney, trying to make Ford look foolish, asked him some basic American history questions.

After being asked several questions which he could not answer, Ford made the following statement to the court:

“Let me remind you that I have a row of electric buttons in my office. All I have to do is press one of them to call the person who can answer any question on any subject I wish to know, relative to the business at hand. I take care of the business, they take care of the questions.”

That statement, as applicable then as it is today, demonstrates the difference between a CEO and a CTO, or the “Tech Guy”.

Executive Verses Technical

What is the difference between a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and a CTO (Chief Technical Officer)? One leads a company and the other is a leader, but a leader of the technical staff.

I see more CTO’s who think that they are also CEO’s than I want to admit.

Sometimes with a small business, the founders have to wear multiple hats when they are first starting out. However, if the founding team was laid out properly, there will be an executive and a tech guy on the team. I wrote an entire article called The Perfect Formula For Cyber Startups if you are interested in my thoughts on this subject.

As the business grows, a smart founder will realize that they may not also be CEO material and will hire someone with experience who has actually run a company before.

The guys at Google were smart enough to realize this and quickly put a seasoned CEO at the head of the company. There is no shame in this. In fact, I actually find it to be the right move from a self-aware business person.

The problem begins when the guy or gal who founds the company has a great disruptive product, but fails to realize that they are a technical person and not an executive leader. This will sink a lot of small businesses and it’s a simple mistake that can easily be avoided.

What Makes A Good Chief Technical Officer?

Augusta, GA has CTO’s coming out of it’s ears, they are everywhere. Some are better than others at their job. Large companies will have a CTO and a CIO (Chief Information Officer), but small startup companies can usually only afford one.

A great CTO is often the most important person in a growing small business. The person who understands the technical stuff and can also speak to potential investors and customers, without going 9 miles down a technical rabbit hole, is very hard to find.

These are the people that I am constantly on the lookout for when attending meet ups and other events in town. This is the person who understands the tech, but can also speak the language of business.

These awesome people are a rare breed. It’s like being fluent in multiple different languages, the CEO speaks english, the CTO speaks english and nine other languages.

The Tech Guy Who Thinks He Is A CEO

These people are so easy to spot it’s just silly. They are all over social media posting things that a true leader of a company would NEVER put out into the public domain.

They see nothing wrong with posting garbage and arguing with others on social media. These postings are a result of their lack of personal and business skills.

The other tech guys on social media eat it up, and while they think this stuff is awesome, in reality, they are just very smart people who lack business communication skills. If you represent a company, then please realize, what you put on social media does matter to the bottom line of your company.

The contrast between an executive leader and a tech guy are very stark. If you ask the tech guy a question, you will get the answer, but it’s usually so far down the technical rabbit hole that the average person gets lost after about 10 seconds.

A company needs a business leader and a tech guy to succeed. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were both essential to the success of Apple, but Wozniak was smart enough to realize that he was not the front man for the company, he was the genius behind the products.

Augusta Needs More CEO’s

Today, we see everyone in Augusta focused on technical training. Don’t get me wrong, we need a lot more people trained to fill the growing market demands. However, we are also going to need CEO’s to run the fast paced companies that are going to start sprouting up like weeds when the business ecosystem is filled out in another 24 months.

The Quarterback and The Geek

The high school star athlete is no longer getting picked to play and the class geek now lives in a high end neighborhood with the pretty girl that used to date the star quarterback. It’s funny how things change in life.

Augusta is also going through a change. We are moving from a stagnant, old money town to a high tech, cyber juggernaut run by techies who will transform the world of cyber over the next decade.

Personally, I am going out and buying some high water pants and horned rimmed glasses because geeks now rule the school!