You were content in life, working to contribute in operations, sales or product/technology development. You were a master, an expert in your field and were comfortable in your skin. Then the business was rocked when the leading family member became seriously ill; or your key partner suddenly seemed to go nuts — focusing on personal enrichment at the expense of the business; or simply sudden CEO succession was needed. It is an age-old story, a company needs a competent new leader — and through no fault or desire of your own, you find yourself playing the central role of the accidental or reluctant CEO.
Over the years, I have met countless CEOs who never aspired to the position of business leader. Some took on the three letter title at startup but never really expected to be the leader of a significant, complex and demanding business. Others were suddenly thrust into the role to save the company or replace a previous CEO. Regardless of how it transpired, these CEOs did not aspire, position or groom themselves to lead a business, but they did step up when required.
Most of the accidental CEOs I have met have become strong business leaders. If they can get comfortable with who they are and embrace a strong team around them, they and the business can thrive. The key is focusing on what you do best and surrounding yourself with great people and resources.
Are you an accidental or reluctant CEO? If so what have you learned?