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At about this time in an organization’s lifecycle, conversations in the board room and around the water cooler start to focus on the founder. Our founder has great energy and ideas (along with some really dumb ideas) but we still can’t seem to get our act together. We need to either replace our founder or support her with someone experienced who can run day-to-day operations and keep the trains on time.
There’s also a little appreciated but equally severe problem that happens when the founder leaves the business too soon, now that “the professionals are in charge” or because “it’s just not that much fun around here anymore,” and the company fails to capitalize on its true potential over time. To help answer that question, you need to know your business strategy and have an organizational design that supports that strategy. Notice too that I’m not using titles in the structure but functional descriptions for each role?
The reason why you shouldn’t use titles in your structure is that titles create confusion where you need clarity. If you ever find yourself discussing what titles you need versus what functions your business must perform, read Organizational Design: The Difference Between an Organizational Structure and an Org Chart to get out of that trap. If you can answer that question for your own business, then you’ve won 50% of the battle and it puts you significantly further ahead of most companies that are just blindly looking for a title.
It is rarely a good thing when the innovative founder, who seems to have a sixth sense for what the industry really desires, disengages from the business too soon.
Just look at every transcendent brand — those multi-generational businesses that disrupt and dominate entire industries. You may be thinking, “Well shit, how many Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, or John Mackeys are there in the world? In all but rare exceptions — such as when the founder is truly an immature idiot or a crook — don’t try to put them out to pasture.
Instead, design the business around their individual genius — what they are uniquely capable of doing and energized by — while also designing the business to scale and coaching him or her to be an effective head of Strategic Execution.
By the way, the Queen of England structure isn’t just a stupid move for your mid-sized growth business.
This is true even if you have what appears to be one rock-star President in charge of Sales and Marketing now. This is different than having a President or even a President and CEO in charge of total performance of a distinct business unit. For a different reason, it’s also a mistake to consolidate Product Management under the President in charge of Sales. In addition, if you did roll Product Management under the President in charge of revenue, then your profit margin will quickly deteriorate under pressure to hit revenue targets. Software Engineering needs to maintain its effectiveness and adaptability and will lose it if it’s consolidated under Operations. For a similar reason, you would not consolidate Technical Operations (IT, Tools and Systems Integration, Data Analytics and Reporting Platform, etc.) under Software Engineering or vice versa.
Many companies consolidate their Administrative functions like controller, HR administration, and corporate legal coordination under the CFO.
Finally, it’s a mistake to have the CFO as head of Strategic Finance also oversee corporate Strategy.
If placing a Queen of England or consolidating the wrong functions together causes problems for sustained business performance, as we have seen, then what is the right way to get the benefits of having the equivalent of a President and COO?
In a nutshell, this approach of having a Leadership Team requires that you first define your growth strategy and culture, then design the organizational structure based on the major business functions (not people or titles), and then find leaders who are a strong match for those functions, independently of job title.
The truth is that, with a basic cultural system in place, an effective team-based decision-making process, information transparency with clear metrics, and a sound talent management process, it’s not hard to manage that many direct reports.
Unlike the Queen of England, it’s clear in this structure that the Chief of Staff is there to support, not interfere or compete with, the head of Strategic Execution. The Leadership Team with a Chief of Staff is the basic approach that Jeff Bezos has put in place, after some significant missteps, for the organizational structure at Amazon.
In short, Bezos put in place a classic Queen of England structure whereby all Amazon executives reported to Galli.
During the shadow period, the Chief of Staff (now formerly called the Technical Advisor) helps Bezos coordinate and execute on Amazon’s multi-pronged strategy. Once the Chief of Staff’s 18 month tour is over, the goal is to have him or her head up a new key strategic initiative at Amazon.
It is essential under government legislation that every company has adequately trained Fire Wardens on duty. Your company’s driven, visionary founder manages to lead your start up to takeoff and hit rapid growth mode. I can say with confidence that there is a better way to build great leadership to help an organization scale, without the drawbacks of the popular approaches. With a strong functional Leadership Team, you avoid the typical problems of the President and COO approach in favor of a distributed, transparent Leadership Team process. Below is a simple organizational design that supports an expansion-stage strategy for a Software as a Service (SAAS) company with one business unit. They protect or project egos, create role confusion, and obfuscate the real and necessary discussion about what functions are needed to scale the business and the style you need in each role. They typically feel dissatisfied because the business no longer seems capable of executing on their endless thought-stream of breakthrough ideas (the company is overwhelmed just trying to manage existing operations). And don’t fall for the popular myth that a talented founder is unnecessary to scale a great business. Each one had one or more founders who did not run a Queen of England structure (many tried it before reverting to the Leadership Team model that I’ll explain below).
You can’t buy or duplicate what a talented founder as the head of Strategic Execution can bring to the table in terms of vision, heart, commitment, and innovation.

You’ll see this or some variation of this consolidated structure in many different businesses (most of them not breaking through). Either that leader truly excels at Sales or they excel at Marketing, but usually not both and definitely not both at the same time. Even in this case, however, you’d still want to centralize the overall brand architecture under corporate Marketing and then delegate Marketing Execution to that business unit, but still within a sound structure where Marketing Execution is distinct from Sales. But calling out Sales and Marketing as distinct functions and placing them in their correct relative locations in the structure is incredibly valuable — even if you’re going to have one leader wear both hats for now. That is, it is designed to translate between the need to support the effectiveness of outbound activities and the need for efficiency in internal ones. Sales should be held accountable for revenue but Product Management should be held accountable for the profit of the products that Sales sells. Software Engineering (otherwise called Product Development or Manufacturing in a non-software company) must be innovative and responsive to changing product requirements, right? If you do, what you’ll find is that your internal technical operations will always play second fiddle to external customer requirements. It must deploy surplus cash for a sound return, provide strategic-level insight to all other business functions and the board, and ensure that the organization is compliant with regulations and there is a sound global governance process in place.
While both functions are about long-range effectiveness, you want your Strategic Finance function to act as a check and balance against spending too much money or doing really dumb things. Strategy (priorities, incubating new initiatives, recruiting, culture, etc.) needs to be directly involved with the Strategic Execution function at the top. The main thing I want you to take away is that how something is designed is how it behaves. In order to execute swiftly, the Strategic Execution role needs a direct representative from every major function at the table.
You might think of how the Chief of Staff supports the Strategic Execution position of the President of the United States. The head of Strategic Execution still maintains direct connection with the Leadership Team of functional heads who execute on the strategy. From there Bezos shifted towards a leadership team model with key executives owning different business functions as well as new innovation opportunities in Strategy. One example of this is Andy Jassy, who went from Chief of Staff (and other roles at Amazon) to ultimately heading up the early version of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s hugely transformative and market-dominant cloud services architecture. Whatever you choose to do, you must avoid both the Queen of England strategy and short-sighted consolidation of different business functions. He's grown from co-founder and CEO of the world's largest affiliate marketing company to follow his passion as CEO Coach to the world's next generation of expansion-stage companies. Done well, it’s the difference between a monarchy embroiled in power and succession battles and a functional representative democracy. Nor did they get kicked out by VCs or put out to pasture by the Board into a Chairman or VP of Strategy role.
A large factor in what makes Jeff Bezos Jeff Bezos is that he sits at the head of Amazon every day. Put another way, if you have one leader wearing both the head of Sales hat and the head of Marketing hat, then one or both of those functions are going to perform at a less than optimal level.
But Marketing has many clients in addition to Sales, including Strategy, Product Management, Operations, and Strategic Execution. Doing so allows you to spot where potential improvement areas lie, find quick wins, and to judge the current leader by their primary role and expertise. If you consolidate Product Management under Operations, it will become very efficient but less effective. Product Management needs to balance short-range profit targets with long-range product development needs, not fall prey to the singular pressure of Sales or Operations. Well, if you put it under the COO, who by design needs to make operations controllable, repeatable, and efficient, it will lose its flexibility and adaptability to change.
Strategic Execution is the head of the company and the biggest mistake this role can make is to misread the changing market environment. Even if you can’t yet afford to have a senior team of 5 to 10 people, this is still a superior approach to scaling your business.
His or her direct reports — the leadership team running the other major functions — needs to be capable of determining the how and when to execute on the plan. With the right strategic execution framework, it’s straightforward for the head of your business to manage a handful of talented direct reports who are also a strong match for their roles. The approach doesn’t consolidate too much power and control under one individual and it supports sound organizational design principles by balancing the conflicting needs of autonomy and control, effectiveness and efficiency, long range and short range. A few years after that, Bezos also put in place a Chief of Staff role that would be occupied by key up-and-coming leaders with great potential who would shadow him nearly every day for 18 months.
It also allows the Chief of Staff to be inoculated in the Bezos mindset and philosophy and build up leadership skills and cross-functional visibility. A better bet is to hire or promote highly competent, dedicated leaders for each business function and to align the strategy, culture, structure, and team-based decision making processes so that the head of Strategic Execution can drive the business forward (possibly backed by a Chief of Staff). Those former start up struggles and early wins turn into a whole new set of challenges: running the business at scale.
Things have gotten tiresome, overwhelming, or plain boring, so they crave a new setting, ideally with some money in the bank. Instead, these legendary founders got carried out on a stretcher after a lifetime of business building doing only what they could do. In this case, if you were to consolidate Sales and Marketing together under a President or Chief Revenue Officer, then Marketing would soon turn into a sales support function and lose its long-range effectiveness, which is needed to build and defend the brand architecture and positioning, craft a compelling brand narrative, and adapt the brand early to changing market conditions. It must maintain its long-range orientation while simultaneously supporting short-range needs.

Ultimately, it also allows you to find the right new candidate when you can afford to do so.
The other, Product Management, needs to be very efficient at coordinating upstream and downstream requirements and product releases and allocating production resources to be profitable.
If you ask one leader to oversee both functions, the organization will have either poor strategic finance or poor administration (not to mention the structural risk of having one function both collect the cash and pay the bills).
Strategy needs to directly support Strategic Execution and incubate the next generation of innovations. The design must make sense for the strategy and it must balance autonomy and control, short range and long range, effectiveness and efficiency.
But via email and irregular meetings, Bezos and Galli soon engaged in a classic battle over who really ran Amazon.
If you take this basic approach, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and energy, avoid missed market opportunities, and give yourself the greatest probability of success. And it all starts with how you think about what’s really needed to scale your business. Clarifying accountabilities in the structure does not mean you need to rush out and hire someone to fill each role immediately.
For this reason, the head of Strategic Execution can and should delegate accountability for all business functions except Strategy. If you were to seek out a potential President or COO, they would still need a strong team of leaders under them.
The executive team culture turned toxic, business execution speed bogged down, and there was an exodus of key leaders and staff.
Depending on the lifecycle stage and budget of your company, one person could play a role and wear multiple hats across different functions in the structure. The titles and role responsibilities might mean one thing in one company and something totally different in another. However, as it is used here, it includesA the management of the house and everything that happens in that house. Thus, a€?rulinga€? onea€™s household would include how a leader manages his home life, his children, the upkeep of the physical house or apartment where he lives, and his personal finances. All of this would be part of his oikos a€” his house.A Important information about how well potential leaders will serve at church or at work can beA ascertained by delving into these four points. One of the most strategic factors to consider when selecting new married leaders is the conditionA of their marriage. Although you cana€™t make this a hard and fast rule, most often the children of potential leaders are a reflection of the kind of leadership those candidates are currently exercising in their own home.A Since people can impart only what they have in their private lives, it is good to observe what potential leaders have imparted within their own homes. If theya€™re not leading their own homes with excellence, why would you imagine they could lead an entire division of the ministry with excellence? One thing is for sure: If a potential leader cana€™t decently take care of his own domain, youA dona€™t want to put him in charge ofA your domain.
It tells a lot about his personal integrity, his character, and how he respects the rights of others. When a person doesna€™t regularly pay hisbills on time, he inconveniences and upsets other peoplea€™s financial plans. This failure to keep financial commitments often reflects a lack of respect for othersa€™ needs and rights.A It also may simply be a sign that this person is immature in his understanding of money management and responsibility. A persona€™s financial problems may also be an indicator that hea€™s experiencing problems in his marriage as well. Or perhaps his life is unstable due to irregular work conditions.A No matter which of these factors may be the cause for a candidatea€™s financial problems, they are all serious enough to require thoughtful consideration on your part. Does this person have the time, energy, or maturity to handle a position of greater responsibility in your church, ministry, or organization?A Never forget that it is impossible to separate a persona€™s public life from his private life. What is in a potential leadera€™s personal life is exactly what he will bring into his public life.A If he has order and peace in his private life, it will give him a solidfoundation for public ministry. If this is the case, what do these things reveal about those people who are being consideredA for leadership at church, business, or organization? Since what is happening in my privateA life is exactly what I will bring into my public life, I want to bring more order into my ownA personal affairs.
Help me take an honest look at my life so I can see those areas that desperatelyA need my attention. Once I acknowledge the areas that need fixing, please give me the courageA to delve into those areas and to get things right. The way I handle my familyA life, my children, my physical home, and my finances brings glory to Jesus Christ.
I am seriousA about my walk with God, and I therefore invite Him to invade every sphere of my life and toA bring it under His Lordship.
If you are seeking new leadership for the church, business, or organization, have you considered these deeper issues?
If you had considered this before selecting leaders in the past, do you think it would have helped you make better leadership choices?A 2. Have you seen glaring problems in a potential leadera€™s home that you overlooked because his gifts and talents were needed?
Did you later regret your choice because he brought many of those same problems to his job?A 3.

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