There seems to be a current shift in the hierarchy when it comes to CEOs of large companies – a generational shift that is seeing the close of one branch of history, and the beginning of another. Jeff Bezos has stepped down as CEO of Amazon, Steve Jobs passed on the mantle to Tim Cook at Apple before tragically passing away. Bill Gates, once CEO of Microsoft, took the opportunity to stand down and focus more upon charitable efforts.

Signals are now being seen that Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, may be following suit and stepping down as CEO of Tesla, but is it true, and what could be the ramifications if he does so?

Certain statements made recently have caused people to believe that Musk has tired of the general managing of Tesla, and was far more enamoured with the start-up phase, the day-to-day operations, and the thrill of building and launching a successful company. This raises a common dilemma for all entrepreneurs and business owners, that one day, if successful, they may also have to examine for themselves.

When we start a business, we generally do so because we are creatively minded, or love design, engineering, or product creation. We do it because we are passionate about something, and wish to communicate that to the world. To see the world adopt such ideas and products is the height of satisfaction.

But start-up entrepreneurs hardly ever take the long view of the CEO’s role in dealing with things such as legal issues, people management, human resources, finance, repetitional concerns, forward planning and strategy, PR and recruitment. Suddenly, finding yourself at the top can feel like an alien place to be – it causes the CEO to question their passion for what they do, and to recognise that while the journey to success is certainly thrilling, the loneliness of being at the top can be disorientating.

The CEO runs the business, and running the business is not the same as being a designer, the engineer, the creator – the man on the front lines and at the forefront of the excitement.

This is the “entrepreneur’s paradox”…

When you begin, you’re a specialist, and you build a company from something you’re passionate about. You do this by devoting your very soul to the concern and if you’re successful, you create something the world takes to its heart.

As you grow you have to be a generalist. You have to suddenly become adept at PR, marketing, finance, legal issues and people management.

We are then faced with a choice. Do we take the step of becoming the CEO of the company? Do we step up to become the man at the top? Because if we do, we must also accept that our role will never be the same again.

Perhaps this is the reason why a generation of CEOs are suddenly stepping down, and might be the reason behind the latest rumours swirling, that Elon Musk, current CEO of Tesla, is about to do the same…

Rob Moore
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