Best CEOs with no management experience?

Speaking to high-level positions, obviously somebody was best owner of a mom & pop shop.

Particularly large, multibillion dollar companies, perhaps running a midcap would be on a close tier.

But I’m thinking about people with no management qualifications appointed into a major role who did well. There are just a lot of them appointed recently and possibly about to happen, I’m wondering how that turns out.

Elon Musk

I’m willing to throw my hat in the ring if a company wants to give me a chance.


I guess Mark Zuckerberg counts

so many where someone has a better idea and then starts and runs a company

Not exactly a CEO, but my first thought is athletes that get offered a major head coaching or GM job without any experience. Sometimes that works, other times it’s a flameout. Just because someone was an elite athlete doesn’t mean they necessarily have any skills running a front office. Maybe they have some experience on good coaching, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can do it well themselves.

John Lynch is an example of a former athlete who got offered a GM job as his first experience in the front office. I think he’s done pretty well with it.

personally, I don’t believe elite athletes are the better coaches. If the ability is too natural, I don’t believe they get how best to teach.

Obviously some exceptions - Ditka, Lenny Wilkins, Torre?

hmmmm I guess he abandoned GoA

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Agree. Not sure elite athletes are better coaches than average joes that went into coaching. Same with front office.

Look at Elway as an example: he was a pretty good QB, but was generally pretty lousy at drafting QB’s despite his background. His only decent QB during his tenure was signing Peyton as a free agent.

Right. Company founders are pretty much the only CEOs that are appointed w/out management experience. I can’t think of any example of an established large cooperation appointing a zero experience CEO.

Anyway, I’d say Bill Gates was a fine CEO at Microsoft during his time. Zuck was disqualified when he changed the company name to Meta.

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Though I believe Bird was a pretty good GM

I get the sentiment, but can hardly say he was inexperienced when he did it
That is an experienced CEO making bad decisions

There was Dick Cheney, dunno if he counts as “best”…or “worst”…

before I accept, walk me through the separation agreement parts of the contract

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Well the reason he did it was because of the bad press and associations with the name Facebook. So, there’s that.

I think you might want to add the qualifier “formal” to "experience. That is, having worked in a more related field (e.g., actually doing scouting for a GM role; serving time as a position coach before becoming a Coordinator; serving time as a Coordinator before being a head coach; etc.).

But I think that many “elite” athletes have some level of experience in management when they serve key leadership roles. John Lynch was often the “play caller” for the teams he played for–and often worked with other defensive players on how to work together (e.g., how to communicate effectively).

Peyton Manning served a similar role for offense. In some cases, I’ve heard commentators call him the “coach on the field”; especially during games. There’s a reason that a lot of coaches listened to him during game prep (and the ones that didn’t often ended up not being nearly as successful as those who did listen).

I’ll buy the Manning argument about a coach on the field
Not buying the Lynch calling defensive plays as good experience for being GM. Calling the defense is nothing like deciding on player contracts or doing draft evaluations. He’s been pretty good at that though.

Not suggesting that; but rather his “personnel” chops (knowing everybody’s strength & weaknesses) and identifying how to adjust a particular defensive scheme (in response to the offense changing their line-up looks) accordingly. That is, having a good “scouts” awareness on the field (and in the locker room) can translate into being a good GM.

And it’s also very likely that he might’ve been mentored while a player by various personnel executives in preparation for after “hanging up the cleats”.