Mar 10, 2020dixithanoop rated this title 4 out of 5 stars
This book is densely packed with tons of C-suite level stories, happenings at the very top, as well as guidelines and tips for aspiring and current CEOs. Best thing about all of these? Certainly the fact that it's data-driven. The authors, Kim Powell and Elena L. Botelho are consultants at ghSmart, a consultancy firm that primarily advises on leadership strategy, offering support across a broad range of solutions, particularly regarding CEO succession. Apparently, ghSmart had a meaty collection of data about CEO behavior, qualities, their successes and failures from their vast experience of vetting CEOs for many years. ghSmart CEO Geoff Smart (that was smart of him to name the firm so) handed over this data to Dr.Jim Goodnight on a clear day and asked for the best data-driven analytics on this dataset. Jim is the founder of the business analytics company SaS, so he is in fact quite well qualified to do this analysis. The result was extended under a project called The CEO Genome project and also written as this book. In fact, after reading the book, I thought The CEO Genome might have been a better title for it. On some pages, because of everything mentioned above, the book comes across as a promotional piece!
Coming to the content of the book itself, it's just brilliant. Years of experience as advisors to top CEOs of many Fortune 500 companies has been distilled into a section-wise organized book that is both a compelling read and a conducive guide. I got to learn about the lives of many CEOs who are not typically our usual suspects, but nevertheless have insanely engaging career paths. The stories of Don Slager of Republic Services, of the Joffrey Ballet group and its CEO Ashley, of Neil Fiske, Bill Amelio of Lenovo and CHC helicopters, Jim Donald of Extended America fame, Scot Clawson, Davis Siegel, Maty Berner of Reader's Digest, Eva Moskovitz of the legendary Success Academy Charter Schools etc were positively motivating. My favorite one of the lot is the story of Thomson Reuters CEO Jim Smith, who rose from being a journalist to be at the helm of his company. His unusual rise to the top is a testimony to the axiom that there's no strict formula for getting the top job. Some stories like Greyhound CEO's spike idea of "no light no people, so no bus" , Intel CEO Andy Grove's "Lets stop doing memory chips and start making microprocessors" were beyond wow!
Apart from that, the book is also heavy on analyzing the qualities of top CEOs, then trying to infer those that win and those that affect negatively, and finally attempting to manage both of them for maximizing the benefit for the company. Some of the results have been counter-intuitive while many are plain obvious. For example, between Fast action vs Decisive action, fast action wins, meaning the CEOs that act "faster" (even with incomplete information) perform better. While "Reliability" is the most sought-after quality in a CEO from her company's board, introvert CEOs are not rarity AND their performance is typically not sub-par in comparison to their extroverted, outgoing, networking-friendly counterparts.
Overall, I think this is a must-read for all current and aspiring CEOs who like to understand what it takes to get to the top job, what to expect when you're getting there, and what to look forward to for retaining the throne and performing consistently well once you get there!