Colin Barry

Theory of the CEO (BSSE, Monday, Week 13)


Interesting commentary on the capabilities and limitations of the class...
If you're trying to build an airplane, which is more important to understand: gravity or Bernoulli's Principle?
"BSSE is a course about gravity." -- Clay Christensen
Our class section seemed to think gravity is more important, which makes no sense to me. I can design a (bad, probably doomed) plane with a decent understanding of Bernoulli's Principle and some intuitive knowledge about the world (don't make the plane too heavy). Gravity gives me almost no insight into how to make a plane fly; it only describes for me how poorly-made planes fall.

Several theories what CEOs do:
(1) CEO is in a reacting role, driven by expectations of investors and analysts => "Forces act on me; what's important is that I stay in balance and do what the Street wants."
(2) CEO puts together a cohort of players/a winning team; CEO as teacher => "Does everyone involved understand how we make money so they will all perform their roles? I want no surprises."
(3) CEO is a communicator of his vision/balancer vis-a-vis shareholders => "Be trusted, so that my company can make good long-term decisions."

I am intuitively drawn to (2) and (3), mostly because I think leaders actually should have insight into the best strategic/tactical path for their firms.
The "leader as caretaker" in (1) seems implausible.