Zuckerberg Ironman

“Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Jobs. Elon Musk. Tony Stark. Only one of those four is fictional, but all share in a popular mythology that the most successful CEOs are independent visionaries who create value through sheer inspiration and force of will. But it obscures a truth: Leading a successful company often requires an enormous amount of support, and not just from employees within their own organizations.

Allen Gannett, CEO of @TrackMaven, got it right!  That’s how he opened his recent post on FastCompany.com: “Dismantling the Myth of the Self-Reliant CEO” (5.26.16).

In his self-described ‘unscientific’ survey of 56 venture-backed startup CEOs, he seeks to find out where they go to get the support, the wisdom they need to lead well. His findings are worth considering:

  • 35% of Seed-stage or Early-stage CEOs use an Executive Coach
  • 60% of Growth-stage CEOs have an Executive Coach
  • Overall, 39% of CEOs used an Executive Coach in the last 12 months

Allen’s assessment of his findings is equally significant as he admits, “As an early-stage founder, I always thought coaching was silly. What role could a coach play that a board member couldn’t? Then I realized that most successful CEOs I personally knew or knew of had used one. Famously, Bill Campbell, the Columbia football coach turned CEO of Intuit, was the coach to tech giants like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, and Larry Page.”

CEOs face the daily challenges of deadlines, meetings, board reports, and personnel issues – and often retain very few resources for their own self-reflection and development. They crave a safety zone in which to sit quietly and think, concentrate, consider and craft the next steps for the organization. Allen Gannett again: “All these challenges are things executive coaches have the experience to help startup leaders sort out—and founders seem to be pretty keen to let them. But while most coaches help people understand their mindsets and underlying motivations, coaches aren’t therapists.”

The most successful professionals – athletes, musicians, physicians, craftspersons, academicians – all have mentors, role models, coaches.  Why should we surprised that the greatest business leaders gravitate to an Executive Coach to help them excel as well?


Allen Gannett is the CEO of TrackMaven, an All-in-One Marketing Analytics Platform. He is based in Washington, D.C., and can be followed at @Allen.

Quotations have been used by permission.