The role of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is unique in its profile, its level of responsibility and its demands. There is much to learn in a short period of time and CEOs are often expected to deliver quickly. This research indicates that more can be done to prepare prospective leaders for the top job.
We interviewed 42 current and recent CEOs and Chairmen to find out which aspects of the job require most preparation. Our contributors spoke candidly about the types of career development and personal learning which helped shape their success as CEOs - and how effective these initiatives were. Many contributors served as both CEO and Chairman and therefore provided insights from both perspectives. Our participants 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. That said, there was considerable consensus about the aspects of the role that require the most preparation.
We hope that this research will be informative and helpful for individuals and teams within public, private and familyowned businesses. Furthermore, we hope that aspiring CEOs can gain a clearer understanding of the learning profiles and initiatives undertaken by successful business leaders. Finally, we hope that those responsible for CEO succession can take the insights and apply them to their own learning and development programmes.
We would like to thank the CEOs and Chairmen who contributed to this research, many of whom are named at the end of this report. In addition, we are indebted to Jonathan Howie for conducting this research with us.