5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a CEO

  • 6 November 2023
  • 1 reply
5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a CEO
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I’ve been Clari’s CEO for almost 11 years. 

In that time, we’ve felt the adrenaline rush from reaching new heights and the turbulence during uncertain times. We’ve grown Clari from the ground floor to a multi-billion dollar valuation

It’s been an eye-opening ride. 

And I’ve learned invaluable lessons about leadership along the way. 

This week, I took time to reflect on my journey as CEO:


  • What would I do differently?
  • What’s been critical to success?
  • What should up-and-coming CEOs be thinking about?

Here are 5 key leadership takeaways for anyone looking to build a legendary career.


#1 - Prioritize Your Brain

I’m often asked how I handle the stress of leading a high-growth company. 

My answer? Focus on mental health

Meditation and exercise are part of my regular routine. I also keep a gratitude journal where I reflect on the good things in my life, from business to family, and record the top three things I’m grateful for every morning. 

I focus on why I’m here, why I’m doing what I do, and give myself space to breathe.


Leadership actions: 


  • Create a mental health plan
  • Invest time in meditation, exercise, and mindfulness
  • Consider a gratitude journal


#2 - Practice Visualization

Visualization is a powerful tool. 

It’s something I’ve been focused on lately, spending time visualizing next steps in my personal life as well as my professional life.

Here’s how it works: 

I close my eyes and imagine what I want my life to be like at the end of the year. 


  • Who am I going to be? 
  • What am I going to be thinking? 
  • What do I want to achieve?

Then I write it all down and set calendar reminders every 90 days to see how I’m tracking and determine what, if anything, I need to change. 

It’s been really powerful for me in achieving my goals. I highly recommend everyone implement this practice into their lives regardless of career status.

Leadership actions:

  • Visualize your future (personal and professional)
  • Ask  tough questions
  • Use a 90-day tracking routine


#3 - Facilitate Healthy Debate

A lot of leaders avoid conflict. 

In my early career, I didn’t care for it either.

But conflict is inevitable within a high-growth company. So turn it from a negative into a value-add for your organization. 

Focus on healthy debate. Injecting the right amount of tension can help you and your team arrive at better outcomes. 

I’ve now realized it’s better to have debate because if there is debate that means there is something there that needs to be ironed out. It’s OK to have friction and be a little emotional.


Leadership actions:

  • Embrace healthy conflict
  • Create a safe space for discussion
  • Make room for emotions


#4 - Promote an Authentic Culture

There are two types of company cultures: 

  • Performance-oriented cultures
  • Authentic-oriented cultures 

I’ve learned across multiple companies it’s better to deliberately create a culture of vulnerability and transparency.

Earlier in my career, I wanted everyone to hear the positives. To come in motivated and leave motivated. 

That may make you feel good and it can seem to be the correct thing to do, but the reality is, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns all the time — bad things do happen. 

To be an effective leader, you have to create complete transparency and share the bad with the good. This creates a balanced, vulnerable culture.


Leadership actions: 

  • Know the culture you’re working to create
  • Embrace the good and the bad
  • Communicate with openness and vulnerability


#5 - Build the Team

I use the analogy of a sports team. 

Each player has an individual position to play. But the positions have to work together as a unit if you want to win a championship. 

Like a sports team, your executive team starts out as a bunch of individual contributors managing their own organizations within the business.

Your job as the CEO is to mold them into a team. 

It’s important to think critically about how you orchestrate the thinking and collaboration of the team to perform at its highest level.

You can have a bunch of great athletes, but if they can’t run offense, you’re going to miss the mark every time.


Leadership actions: 

  • Own the responsibility of team-building
  • Set up routines for collaboration
  • View the team as a whole (and not just individual players) 


Instill these leadership principles for a high-growth career.

If you’re an up-and-comer, invest in:

  • Mental health
  • Vision
  • Healthy debate
  • Authentic culture
  • Team-building

These essentials will help you create a company that lasts. A company that inspires every team member to show up, grow together, and win the day. 

Keep leading,

Andy Byrne

CEO, Clari

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