THE BLOG

CEOs are Bus Drivers, Not Your Mothers

05/20/2014 11:54 am ET | Updated Jul 20, 2014

Qualifier -- this piece was not written in defense of CEOs. It was solely meant to put things into perspective.

We've heard the grumbles and complaints time and time again, about how CEOs make billions of dollars while kicking back in their easy chairs, attending meetings and playing golf -- all of this while the people who do the "real" work get scraps. I know because I complained like everyone else. But the reality is that the CEO's job has nothing to do with taking care of you and me like mom does. It's all about driving the bus to is destination, come hell or high water, and everyone on that bus is just a passenger.

No matter what or how we think of work, it comes down to getting paid to do a job, task, or service. It is monetary bartering of activity for currency, and it has gone on for years and years. We can look at ourselves as workers falling into one of two categories; people who work to pay their bills, and people who work to further their careers. What's the difference you might ask? People who work to pay bills typically don't put a lot of heart-felt effort into what they do each workday, as long as they collect a paycheck every couple of weeks. People who focus on their careers find reward in getting recognized, getting promoted, or getting moved up the corporate totem pole. It's more of a legacy thing than it is money.

But what about the CEO? The big guy who calls all of the shots, and reaps all of the rewards? At the end of the day, the CEO has to show progress and success at their job, like anyone else. The difference is that the CEO may have thousands of employees who are affected by his/her decision. In stark contrast, my decision barely sways a due date on a project plan.

When a CEO decides that he has to lay off hundreds of workers, he is looking at HIS bottom line, the way you and I would look at ours. What is the goal? The destination? The CEO ultimately does what he feels will get him and his company to the desired end point. His job is not to make employees happy and cheerful, the way we think it should be. He has deliverables just like everyone else.

Now don't get me wrong. I've been laid off by CEOs who were collecting a $350,000 salary, and I was really pissed about it too.

But in the end it comes down to something that I've said many times -- you are your own company. As such, you should never ever "rely" on the company to take care of you, and that goes for the CEO as well. We have to take care of ourselves and our own careers. Anyone who counts on their employer to take care of them is both naive and short-sighted. You have to make the career decisions that will help you in the end, because if you look around, everyone else including the CEO is doing just that.

CEOs are simply tasked with getting the company to a predetermined destination, just like a bus driver. And like a riding bus, the employees are passengers who are along for the ride. The driver decides when to stop, where to turn, and how fast to go. CEOs and bus drivers don't take care of the passengers -- they take care of the bus and it's destination. As a passenger, you need to know when it's time for you to get off that bus.

Because if you want someone to take care of you, call your mom...