Ever wonder how so many 20-something entrepreneurs learn how to be the boss? How do they successfully make the transition from college dropout to CEO? I asked Box CEO Aaron Levie if he ever thought about leadership issues or what it would take to be a strong leader back in those early days of starting Box. “No,” he laughs.
The online storage-service company Levie founded in 2005 with three high school friends grew quickly. It went from four co-founders to a staff of 1,400. And in 2015, the company that was started in a dorm room went public and now trades on the New York Stock Exchange. Eventually, Levie had to learn that leadership stuff.
“The good news is, if you go to Amazon.com and you search leadership books, you could probably spend a few hundred years reading about the topic of leadership,” he says. “So I read a lot of books.” Among his favorites: Good to Great by Jim Collins and Only the Paranoid Survive by long-time Intel (”INTC”) CEO Andy Grove.
Levie also turned to Silicon Valley tech leaders for mentorship and advice: Cisco’s (”CSCO”) John Chambers, Dell founder Michael Dell, and Salesforce (”CRM”) founder Marc Benioff. They were “willing to provide mentorship and advice about how to build a company, how to build a culture, how to catch technology transitions at the right time,” Levie says, “and so I benefitted tremendously from that kind of advice.”
Lucky for Levie, not only is he a tech-savvy entrepreneur, but he’s also a good student. It looks like those leadership lessons are paying off.