This past week, Max Schireson stepped down as CEO of MongoDB, a successful and growing software company, in order to be a more involved father. He used this opportunity to give a voice to the work-family struggles of today's fathers. Why his work-family role modeling is so important.
"I hope that me telling this story in my position will help others feel more comfortable in making similar choices and help people in senior leadership roles be more public about it." -- Max Schireson
It's not every day that a CEO steps down to be a more involved dad.
In his own words:
Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don't ask me.
A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job... I recognize that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role. Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices. Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am confident that I can continue to have an meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so. At first, it seemed like a hard choice, but the more I have sat with the choice the more certain I am that it is the right choice.
Schireson's brave decision has garnered media attention, specifically some quality coverage from the Today Show (see this excellent article by Carter Gaddis, and click here for video). On August 6th, the Today Show hosts discussed Schierson and also reflected on the work-family challenges fathers face. Al Roker was particularly compelling (use the link to the video, this story begins around 4:40 in):
Men suffer the same guilt and the same stress but I don't know that people ask us about it, As a guy you're expected to kind of suck it up but it's very tough.
This past month, I participated in events where I heard a pro athlete, CEO and the Vice President speak compellingly about how they balance work and family and try to role model balance for others. However, this is the first time I can remember a CEO or similarly-positioned working father stepping down and making such a public announcement.
As such, I think it sets a clear example to those at the top, and those trying to get to the top, that they need to really think about their life priorities and then, if they are able, to make decisions that are aligned with those priorities. For some, that may mean the corner office. For others, it may mean stepping back and finding a balanced path between work and family. Schireson puts a face to the data that demonstrates that virtually all working fathers see their roles as both nurturers and breadwinners. His is also a high-profile example of downshifting, and provides a compelling role model that may give other working dads the inspiration they need to take similar steps.
With that (and more analysis to come), I'll let my new favorite dad, Max Schireson have the last word:
I think what I look forward to most is just being more engaged in the day to day of it. Having more time with the kids, whether making dinner or talking to them or helping with homework. It's not just being there more It's also being more "there."
What do you think of Schireson's decision and public example? Let's discuss in the comments section.