Answer by Balaji Viswanathan:
Although it is not necessary that you code, you will get immense respect from your team if you do so. At Microsoft, Bill Gates has 10X more prestige than Ballmer who has never coded. Instagram's Kevin Systrom learned coding although he was a marketer before. Think of a ship captain who can neither swim nor steer the wheel. Will his crew respect him?
An ideal CEO is one who can do any task in the company (cold calling, accounting, coding, doing administrative stuff, etc even if less efficiently than a specialist), if necessary.
People at the lowest levels always like their leaders to be connected to their reality instead of just talking "big stuff" in boardrooms. We love our leaders to be hands-on and be willing to do anything. Thus, auto workers respect when the CEO is someone who has worked in the factory floor before, retail workers respect a real sales guy and software developer respect a coder. It is not just business. Winston Churchill stood with his people and visited the bomb shelters. Gandhi always had his hands dirty.
Apart from respect you have following benefits:
- You can intuitively understand what is going on around you. Thus, when your engineering lead and IT dept are fighting if you have to move to Scala from Python, you know what the battle is about.
- You can develop the strategy with a more clear thought. Although you might have specialists to help, it is your final call as the "commander-in-chief".
- You can easily call out the "sh*t" when your engineering guy comes with an unreasonable cost/time estimate.If you can confidently say to your engineering lead – "do you want me to finish the coding?" – you can clearly establish who runs the show.
- You will appear more confident in your judgment since you understand the stuff in a broader sense, and this confidence can be noted by other stakeholders.
- Be the "dude/dudette" CEO who is defined by DO. Your employees and stakeholders will then trust that they are in the right hands.
Don't fall into the fallacy that you can hire "the coder", "the sales person" and the designer, while you can happily talk "big stuff". Learn coding and basics of every other fundamental activity that your business does. You will earn the respect of your workers.