November 12, 2010

Authentic Leadership with A Long-Term Vision

When Twitter co-founder Evan Williams announced that he would be stepping down as CEO of the company, the news was met with shock and bewilderment.  Why would the CEO of a rapidly growing tech company step down from such a high profile position?  Doesn’t he want the glory? 

Instead of prioritizing his own career advancement and keeping control over the company, Williams made a sound decision for the long-term health of the company.  He has tapped COO Dick Costolo to step into the role of CEO, recognizing that Costolo’s experience makes him more apt to lead the company through its current stage of growth and development.

Costolo has significant experience monetizing a popular consumer Internet product, as he founded Feedburner in 2007 and later sold the company to Google.  Twitter needs to develop a sound revenue strategy to deliver returns for its investors, which have poured more than $100 million into the company.  Williams recognized that the specific skill sets that Costolo has are needed in the CEO to allow the business to succeed.

Williams will maintain focus on developing a great product where he can add the most value, while Costolo’s strength in leadership and vision will propel the company further into profitability.  It took a self-aware and humble leader to recognize that there was a better suited candidate in the company to be CEO in this period.

Many entrepreneurs fail to recognize that different kinds of leadership and skills sets are needed in the sustainable growth phase than was required in their start-up challenges. Keenly recognizing what Twitter needs to power forward in competing with dynamic sites like Facebook and Linked-In, Evan Williams faced reality, avoiding a potential crisis of leadership and vision. 

By choosing someone with Costolo’s skills and experience to lead the company, he demonstrated that he knows his strengths and weaknesses, and is giving the company the best chance to succeed.  Williams showed authentic leadership by recognizing his strengths as a leader and putting the long-term health of the company ahead of personal accolades.