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The Alchemy of Leadership Blog

What makes a CEO successful?


At the School for CEOs we carry out research into what makes CEOs successful. The results help us develop our innovative development programmes.

Our first research project, "Stepping up to CEO", was launched in October 2013. We interviewed over 40 CEOs and Chairs to find out which aspects of the job require most preparation. They spoke candidly about the types of career development and personal learning which helped shape their success as CEOs - and how effective these initiatives were.

Our contributors represented a wide range of backgrounds, industries and company sizes. The interviews showed that, as would be expected, there is no single ‘CEO pathway’ to the top. Learning and development has therefore varied dramatically depending on context, competencies and career choices.

Over 90% of contributors believed that, depending on the situation, prospective CEOs require more preparation specific to the top role. This is largely due to its uniqueness, its loneliness and its ultimate accountability.

Since then the School has trebled its Alumni helping individuals prepare themselves with guidance from those who have been there before. Our Faculty of over 70 accomplished business leaders providing practical lessons for immediate use based on personal boardroom experience

Our research received coverage in The Times, the Financial Times, and Forbes magazine. Each article highlighted the sense of loneliness at the top, which comes through on reading the report.

School for CEOs co-founder Patrick Macdonald has explored this topic further in our blogs Being the Boss and The Loneliness of the Chief Executive.

We are currently finalising our latest piece of research which will investigate the key leadership challenges in the 21st Century. This research aims to discover how CEOs can be best prepared for the future.

So far we have interviewed 66 Chairs, CEOs and HR Directors from FTSE 350 companies and asked them about the changing business environment, the requirements of future CEOs and their advice on preparing people for that future.

We will be publishing our findings in November and if you would like to receive further updates please Contact Us.

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  • MICHAEL OH 26/11/2016 4:17pm (2 years ago)

    May I know how can I have the opportunity to read your esteemed report on "WHAT MAKES CEOs SUCCESSFUL?
    I await your kind response please.
    Many thanks and kindest regards.

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