Book Review: The CEO Next Door

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Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. There’s no magic in The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors That Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders. The four behaviors referred to in the title aren’t going to transform you or your career. If you master them, you will probably be a better leader than you would be without them, but the behaviors themselves don’t guarantee world-class anything.

Now for the good news. There’s an awful lot in this book that can help you be more effective and more successful no matter where you are in your career or personal journey. Despite the over-promising title and the silliness of referring to behaviors as a “genome,” this is a book that you should consider buying and reading. In fact, it’s really three books.

One book will give you some solid advice on how to do better in your career today. The second book offers great advice on how to climb the org chart and, perhaps, become a CEO. The third book is about what to do if that happens. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Setting the Stage

The first chapter is an introduction to the book. The authors describe the solid research and the experience that the book is based on. It describes the “CEO Genome Project,” which is what they named the research.

One thing the book attempts to do is to debunk some CEO myths. This happens pretty quickly, but the list is long, and the myths are common. Here’s a list.

  • Only ivy-leaguers need apply.
  • CEOs were destined for greatness from an early age.
  • CEOs are egotistical superheroes.
  • Successful CEOs have a larger-than-life personality with exceptional charisma and confidence.
  • To become a CEO, you need a flawless resume.
  • Female CEOs succeed differently from men.
  • Great CEOs excel in any situation.
  • To become a CEO, you need to check every box.
  • CEOs work harder than the rest of us.
  • For CEOs, the smarter, the better.
  • Experience trumps all.

With those basics out of the way, you’re ready for the three books inside these covers.

The First Book: The Four “Genome” Behaviors

The first book has some good advice, no matter where you are in your life or career. Whether you’re an effective leader or not, whether you’re ambitious or not, you’ll get things here that will help you do better. The authors describe what follows as the four “CEO genome behaviors.” (Pause to gag.)

  • Decisiveness
  • Engaging for impact
  • Relentless reliability
  • Adapting boldly

Getting better at those four things will help you do better where you are, regardless of where that is. But, what if you’re an ambitious soul that wants to climb the org chart to its topmost reaches?

Book Two: Get to The Top: Win Your Dream Job

The authors have worked with a lot of executives and a lot of companies. They’ve engaged expert help and deployed cutting-edge technology to figure out what it takes to climb and be successful. That’s what this book is about.

The authors describe how boards select CEOs and discuss ways that you can increase your odds of being chosen. This isn’t for you only if you want to achieve the CEO position. It will help you get promoted, no matter where you are now. The key things to achieve are first-rate performance and high visibility.

Book Three: Get Results: Navigate the Challenges of The Role

Let’s say you’ve done it. You’re now a newly-minted CEO. Now what?

That’s what this final section/book is about. There’s good advice about common mistakes that new CEOs make. There’s a lot of very good material on dealing with a board. What I liked about this part of the book was the identification of common pitfalls. If you become a CEO, this could save you.

In A Nutshell

The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors That Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders by Elena L. Botelho, Kim R. Powell, and Tahl Raz shares solid experience and research-based advice about how to do a better job in a leadership position, how to climb to a senior position, and what to do and how to avoid common pitfalls when you become a CEO. It’s worth reading despite a title that overpromises and some language that is simply silly.

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on my GoodReads page.


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