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What’s Different About Being a CEO?

5 September 2014

An article by co-founder of the School for CEOs, Patrick Macdonald, features in the latest issue of Developing Leaders, published by IEDP. IEDP (International Executive Development Programmes) holds the largest online database of executive development programmes and is used by businesses looking for the right development programme for their people.

In IEDP’s own words, Developing Leaders “publishes specialist information for leaders and leadership development professionals, focusing on the latest developments, ideas and best practice being delivered by the world's premier business schools and consultancies.”

Patrick’s four-page article highlights many of the more subtle aspects that differentiate the CEO from the rest of the organisation. Firstly, he challenges the need for an ultimate leader; why should one person be responsible for all major decision-making? Secondly, he expands on this theme of sole responsibility by stressing the ‘loneliness of command.’ This is a common feeling for a CEO who is ‘both a part of that organisation yet also apart from it.’

The theme of loneliness was raised in the School for CEOs’ research report, ‘Stepping up to CEO’, published last autumn. Being the only person able to ‘make the big calls’ contributes to this feeling of isolation. However, there are a number of other factors that play their part. Patrick talks about the common misunderstanding that the Chairman is the CEO’s boss, whilst highlighting the many important relationships that have to be juggled with the C-Suite, Board, regulators, workforce and media (to name but a few). All this before the CEO can begin their day job!

Stating that the job of a Chief Executive is ‘a craft to be learned,’ Patrick makes several references to the School’s research, where new leaders prioritise a number of unanticipated challenges before considering the more conventional responsibilities of strategy, governance and execution.

The article is published in Issue 16 of Developing Leaders, available on this link.



Notes for editors: The School for CEOs is a new concept in senior executive education. It was founded in 2011 by: Patrick Macdonald, Chairman of Reconomy and former Chief Executive of John Menzies plc; and David Sole, business coach and former international rugby captain. The next 2-day residential Vital Few programme will take place on 8/9 October 2014. The first 1-day non-residential Runway programme will take place on 11 November 2014. Both programmes are taught in London by practitioners – current and former business chiefs – and aim to provide senior businessmen and women with the tools they need to be successful leaders.

For more information and to apply, call 0131 225 5886 or go to

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