You know that your vision for the company is critical but you also know that you have to do this CEO thing as well.

Last week I met a woman who has been successfully building her company for about 4 years. She is a great startup CEO. By all accounts, she has grown her company from a problem she witnessed first hand, through building out a good, value-add product, and now has effectively grown her customer base and is ready to engage a few very large distribution partners, which should sky-rocket her company. I am very bullish on her prospects.

As I began to probe into her journey, I was amazed to find that she never wanted the role of CEO. Her thoughts at the time were that there are others that are better suited for this; she was just going to serve the company as the product champion as she had direct experience with the problem.

I would label her as the reluctant CEO.

So she found a few technical folks to partner with to build out the initial product. Once they had something she could show, she went out to a few prospects from her network and asked what they thought of her idea and MVP. The next thing she knows–she has a few beta customers.

Once this vision/product/customer train pulled out of the station, she looked around and asked her partners, “who is going to pitch this to investors”. When she analyzed the group, she realized that she was going to have to do the pitch.

Obviously we both know by now that she did a great job and has served the company well. This story had me thinking that we all read about various skills we need to be an effective CEO including:

  1. manages solid hiring & firing
  2. raises capital
  3. establishes an effective culture
  4. drives customer engagement.

Good startup CEO’s wear many hats and are required to change their hats at a moment’s notice. We all fundamentally understand that.

But great CEO’s have a larger, over-arching quality. The one thing that really makes for a great CEO is that they step up to the plate and deliver when needed. Is that you?

This article first appeared in INC.COM – find more of my articles there.