How to Flex Your Leadership Muscle: What I’ve Learned Going from Engineer to CEO

In a post this morning on Fast Company, I reflect on the management lessons I've learned since leaving to start Okta. Building and running a successful company, as a CEO, takes a completely different set of skills than running an engineering team. Have a look, and be sure to head over to Fast Company to read the full article:

Before I left to start Okta, CEO Marc Benioff gave me some advice. He said, “Todd, to be a great CEO, you'll need to learn how to be a great leader, not just a great manager.”

At that time, I didn’t think much of that suggestion. But over the past three years in founding and growing my own company, I keep coming back to those words and have found them to be hugely valuable. What I've learned--and I suppose what Marc was trying to tell me--is that building a successful company takes an entirely different combination of skills than I was used to showcasing as the head of engineering.

When you're running a large department in a growing company, you flex your management muscle all the time. You are constantly pushing your team and making sure that everyone is focused on the right priorities, that deadlines are hit and that together your group is functioning like a well-oiled machine. What I learned--almost immediately--is that being a CEO utilizes a totally different muscle combination than what I was accustomed to at

Leadership and management are not mutually exclusive by any means. Instead, they each require both muscle groups applied in the right mix--and understanding how they are distinct makes managers better leaders and leaders better managers. And in going from an engineer to a CEO, it’s become much clearer to me how they differ:

Think Differently

When you start a new company--or even a major initiative within an existing company--you have zero momentum. In fact, you will likely even face obstacles designed to impede your creation of anything. To build momentum takes leadership. You need to be bolder, more vocal and more compelling than anyone else to speak over the naysayers, to inspire your team, to do great things and get your business rolling in the right direction.

To read the rest of the article, please visit Fast Company.