Leadership Advice from a Silicon Valley CEO Coach

March 11, 2020

Book Review by Andy Ghillyer

The business world may not be lacking for books on leadership, but if you subscribe to the adage that ‘the buck stops here,’ as CEO, the unique nature of the role should be worthy of “a compendium of all things CEOs need to learn.” To complicate matters further, even if such a compendium existed, CEOs rarely have the time available to commit to extensive training programs. If you’re the CEO of a startup, you probably have barely enough time to sleep.

In his new book The Great CEO Within: The Tactical Guide to Company Building, author, entrepreneur, and executive mentor Matt Mochary sets out to deliver such a compendium based on real-life scenarios that he and his mentees have experienced and examined for learning opportunities. The book presents six areas of focus to achieve operational and professional excellence, promising to shatter a few leadership myths along the way.

Begin at the Beginning

Mochary mentors tech startup CEOs in Silicon Valley, so it makes sense that the first area covers how to “start a company and develop a team.” Building a core team prevents the isolationism of going it alone by sharing the emotional burden of such a high-stress environment. A well-chosen team can enable efficient communication and productive work relationships. For that to happen, however, the new CEO must commit to modeling the behavior he or she expects from that team (individual habits), including good self-care, constant mental presence in the workspace, and never missing an opportunity to express gratitude for all the hard work being done.

Each addition to the core team “adds additional complexity in geometric fashion.” As the new business develops beyond the incubator stage, the CEO must embrace group management habits. This is often a point of significant risk in the development cycle of the business. The CEO may have the vision and insight to recognize a new business opportunity, but he or she will be unable to build it into a viable venture as a solo endeavor. Consensus among the group may be ideal, but in reality, someone will have to make a decision, and if the CEO is unwilling to delegate authority, no one in that group will step-up because they’ll be anticipating the CEO to decide––usually out of frustration.

The remaining three areas of focus come into play as the new venture reaches nominal viability. The larger group now develops into a substantive “infrastructure” with the necessary skills to facilitate effective communication (including an ongoing commitment to training and regular process-checking). “Collaboration” examines the organizational structure to ensure that there are no bottlenecks or silos to impede maximum productivity. Finally, attention is devoted to “processes,” to establish and monitor the key operational systems from recruitment and onboarding of personnel to sales and marketing.

The underlying assumption of this compendium is that CEOs start businesses to understand the needs of real customers and to develop effective solutions to meet those needs. Paying attention to these six areas of focus will equip any CEO to develop an organization that will operate at maximum effectiveness.

The Great CEO Within is an excellent resource for CEOs at any stage of their careers. If you’re starting your own company, you should keep it close by and reference it often.


Andy Ghillyer

Andy Ghillyer is a Contributing Writer at Soundview. He lives in Tampa, FL where he specializes in writing for the B2B and academic markets while raising a growing menagerie of cats and dogs. His other reviews are here.


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