6 Leadership Lessons Tech CEOs Learned From Their Dads

In celebration of Father’s Day this Sunday, six tech leaders share the lessons they learned from their biggest fans: their dads.

6 Leadership Lessons Tech CEOs Learned From Their Dads
[Image: Flickr user jmettraux]

The lessons learned from fathers not only drive us, but can be found at the core of who we are and shine through in our day-to-day life, from our mannerisms to our vocabulary. But for a few top tech CEOs and founders, the lessons learned from dad can also be found in their leadership styles today.


In honor of Father’s Day, six business leaders share the leadership lessons they learned from their fathers that still drive them today, from leading by example to the importance of trusting your team.


“My father was a man of few words–he was my rock. My mother passed away when I was a teenager, leaving my father to learn how to take care of the cooking, cleaning, and me. Never did I hear him complain about anything. I learned more from what my father did than from what he said. My father demonstrated that actions speak much louder than words, and he taught me the importance of being the way you want others to be–of being authentic.”

– Jay Larson, CEO of Birst, provider of cloud-based enterprise-caliber Business Intelligence


“For as long as I can remember, my family has built businesses. Work was infused in our lives, which often meant sleeping on the couch in my dad’s office after rushing around to hockey practices all evening. My grandfather and father instilled in me the basic lemonade stand approach to running a business: make a profit and stand on your own two feet. This focus on the fundamentals of business–especially in this fast-paced world of hurried growth and quick exits–has been an incredibly stabilizing influence for me as we continue to chart our own course with SpiderOak.”

– Ethan Oberman, CEO and Co-founder of SpiderOak, the “Zero-Knowledge” privacy cloud technologies provider


“My dad taught me a lot about strength, hard work, and how you have to keep fighting even when things aren’t going well–they always come ‘round eventually! However, it was my grandfather who inspired me to be an entrepreneur and not be afraid to do things differently. One of my earliest memories was traveling over the Humber Bridge in England and feeling proud that my grandfather’s construction firm had built this incredible structure. Huddle’s holding company is named after the Ninian Central Platform (an oil rig), which he also built. It’s the biggest concrete platform in the world.”


– Alastair Mitchell, CEO and co-founder of Huddle, the enterprise content collaboration platform


“My father, a former entrepreneur himself, gave me this sage advice when I first became a manager, which has guided me to this day as a CEO: managing people is not about controlling behavior to do things perfectly but hiring great people, giving them clear goals, and turning them loose. Letting people succeed in their own way and then investing behind the successful people and behaviors is an almost Darwinian technique of scaling the company, but one that has enabled my teams to always do things that were far beyond what I could have achieved myself.”

– Manav Mital, co-founder and CEO of Instart Logic, the cloud application delivery service for performance-obsessed organizations


“My dad was brutally direct. He was a doctor and not a businessman, so I’m not sure if this has been good for me in business or not. He wanted to help as many patients as possible and didn’t care if you could pay. I inherited his cut-to-the-chase style, which has led to a few embarrassing business conversations. I have to make an extra effort to be diplomatic.”

– John Keagy, CEO and Founder of GoGrid, the leader in Open Data Services


“My family spent summers on our farm in New Hampshire, and I learned that when the tractor broke down in the middle of the field, it was either fix it on the fly or start the long walk home. My dad taught me to be innovative and resourceful; specifically, use the tools I had available to solve a problem. I learned how to fix that tractor myself with duct tape and baling wire. In business and in life, you have to creatively utilize the resources you have at your disposal, nurture ideas and innovation, and remove whatever hurdles might be in your way.”


–Larry Augustin, CEO of SugarCRM, the company enabling customer relationships with the most innovative and affordable customer relationship management (CRM) solution

Kathleen Shanahan is the founder of BOCA Communications and comes from a long line of women, family-owned businesses. Beyond her passion for PR and her deep sense of commitment to clients and employees, she is also a mother herself with a 3-year old daughter and an 11-year-old Boston terrier named Zoe. They all reside in San Francisco with her husband.