CEO Steps Down To Be A More Involved Dad

Yesterday, 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 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

Max Schireson downshifted from his CEO role to be more present with his family
Max Schireson downshifted from his CEO role to be more present with his family

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 Schireson and also reflected on the work-family challenges fathers face. Al Roker was particularly compelling:

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.

Take a look at the video below (they discuss this topic for over 4 minutes, starting at 4:40 or so in)

Click here for the Today Show segment on Max Schireson and fathers' work-family balance
Click here for the Today Show segment on Max Schireson and fathers’ work-family balance

This past month, I participated in events where I heard a pro athleteCEO 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.

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12 thoughts on “CEO Steps Down To Be A More Involved Dad

  1. It’s great to see this story bringing men’s desire to have a work / life or work / family balance into the open. I guess it’s easier to sacrifice a chunk of your salary when you’re being paid the sort of money he was, but it still sends out a message that I hope will have an impact on working culture.

    • Agreed. I have heard some people state that, “well, he has the money to do this- he was CEO and his wife has a good job (she’s a physics professor at a major university), so what’s the big deal?”
      But you make the point that this is a visible, high-profile example that I think can help make a difference.

  2. Thanks for highlighting this Scott! I love Max’s willingness to share his need for more time with his family — we absolutely need more men speaking out from this perspective. But on the other hand, I fear that his decision perpetuates the idea that you cannot be a CEO and family-focused at the same time. Max seems resigned to that notion — he writes, “MongoDB deserves a leader who can be ‘all-in’ and make the most of the opportunity.” Are we to expect that all CEOs must be single and childless? I understand that Max has to be careful how he phrases his departure, but I hope that conversations around his decision can focus on the need to change our very model of work so that it becomes normal for a CEO to also be able to prioritize his or her family — rather than for someone who prioritizes family (man or woman) to step down from the CEO role.

    • Hi Emma- While I believe that one can absolutely balance a successful career with a full family/outside life, I fear that max is right about CEOs and the need to be “all in.”
      IMO, one cannot be a CEO of a substantially large company and also be highly involved at home. This is why almost all male CEOs have at-home wives, and almost all female CEOs have no children.
      The good news is that this may only apply to an incredibly small subset of jobs. A company may have thousands of employees, but just one CEO.

  3. This is a great article. I too am staying home to take care of my twins, but am also running my business. Yep, it’s tough. At first I wasn’t in favor of it because I thought it somehow represented a failure of my business. But now I embrace it as a special opportunity to bond with my 20 month old twins.

    I discovered your blog via the NPR article. I recently started a blog for parent entrepreneurs.

    I’m going to subscribe to your blog and look forward to being in touch again in the near future.


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