Get All Access for $5/mo

Separate, Delegate, Focus: Why the CEO Doesn't Need to Be the Guru It's important to buck the narrative of the "CEO expert."

By John Roa Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

CEOs like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Bill Gates all contribute to the narrative fallacy that you need to be an expert in your field to be an effective CEO. While they are all incredible leaders with deep expertise in their respective fields, I don't believe that being an expert in what your business does is a prerequisite to being a successful CEO.

Related: 5 Influential CEOs Weigh in What Makes a Good Leader

To be clear, knowing the business you're in is important. I'm not suggesting you start a company that you know nothing about. I do, however, believe that by separating the "expert" from the "CEO," I have enabled my company, ÄKTA, a high-end mobile experience design consultancy in Chicago, to become one of the fastest growing companies in the country.

Separating "guru" from "CEO"

My secret to success is simple: Separate the CEO from the expert. Consider the position of CEO as just one of the many roles within a company, tasked with specific duties and responsibilities. It is certainly a vital role, but at the end of the day it is still just a role someone must take on.

The CEO should focus on high-level strategic goals: growth, partnerships, and fundraising. The expert, on the other hand, needs to live and breathe the product, understand it inside and out. Experts need to be completely focused on product direction, quality and management. The CEO does not need to be the expert, but does need to know enough about the business to hold the expert accountable to his or her responsibilities and goals.

Separating and defining these roles creates focus, which is crucial to the growth of a company. It is very rare that a CEO can do both jobs effectively, so unless you are confident that that's you, separate the roles within your company.

Delegating, delegating, delegating

Once those roles are separated, the CEO needs to delegate as much as possible. This means you need to focus on hiring people you trust to actually do the job and then let them do it. While I'm not the design expert, I've hired the best of the best and trust their judgment. As an entrepreneur, you may be tempted to be hands-on in every detail. It's your hard work that has built the company and you often know what's best.

Yet, micromanaging your business limits the company's growth, as there is only so much one person can do. Determining what your unique strengths are and finding where you can provide the most value will help illuminate what tasks are best delegated.

Related: 5 Visionary CEOs and Their Key Traits That Every Leader Should Master

Growth, partnerships and fundraising

I've found I'm most effective when I focus on growth, partnerships and fundraising. Those are also areas that would not really make sense to delegate. CEOs' core competencies may differ, but those competences will undoubtedly have similar elements, as the staples of a CEO's role.

Often, these responsibilities require extensive travel, meetings and networking. If I had to also stay on top of each project we were working on, nothing would ever get done, and I would be stretched unsustainably thin. By focusing on what I'm best at, I can fulfill my role as a CEO longer, without burning out.

By separating roles, delegating responsibilities and focusing on my strengths, I have been able to grow a business I am proud of, and still live a life I enjoy. Unlike many of my peers, I have been able to travel extensively and push hard on larger initiatives, such as international expansion. All of this success is due to the amazing team I have built, the people I rely on every day. Without them, ÄKTA never would have gotten off the ground, and it is this trust in my team that allows me to buck the narrative of the "CEO expert."

Related: 8 Smart Leadership Strategies Most CEOs Forget to Use

John Roa

CEO and Founder of ÄKTA

John Roa is the CEO and founder of ÄKTA, a Chicago-based digital design, user experience and development consultancy. In September 2015, ÄKTA agreed to be acquired by Salesforce. Roa also founded and runs Digital Hope, a not-for-profit charitable organization that uses crowdfunding to support underfunded international NGOs.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

How to Start Your Dream Business This Weekend, According to a Tech CEO Worth $36 Million

He started his now 14-year-old company in one weekend for $60 — it made $300,000 the first year, and $3 million the second.

Business News

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon Wants People to 'Stop Talking' About AI: 'It'll Help You Do Your Job Better'

Dimon said the technology is already "embedded" at the company and estimated that JPMorgan would increase its AI-related projects by 400 this year.

Side Hustle

This Mom Started a Side Hustle on Facebook — Now It Averages $14,000 a Month and She Can 'Work From a Resort in the Maldives'

Heather Freeman was searching for a way to make some extra cash — and her cousin gave her a great idea.


'Embrace the Change.' How the CEO of a 101-Year-Old Toy Company Adapts to an Ever-Evolving Industry

Hasbro CEO Chris Cocks talks to 'Entrepreneur' about his philosophies on leadership and innovation at Collision conference in Toronto.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.