Elena Botelho and Kim Powell spent over 10 years researching the career decisions that helped the best leaders in business accelerate upwards to more and more responsibility. Their CEO Genome Project culminated into a bestselling, newly released book, The CEO Next Door, one of the Spring selections for the Next Big Idea Club. This article is excerpted from Botelho’s video course material, which was produced by the Next Big Idea Club.
A lot has been written about successful CEOs. In fact, a Google search on “How to become a successful CEO” will return about 45 million hits. At some level, we all have preconceived notions of what a successful CEO looks like—those larger-than-life, charismatic personalities who stare out at us from the front page of the Wall Street Journal every day.
In the research behind their new book The CEO Next Door, Elena Botelho and Kim Powell worked with the University of Chicago and data miners at SAS Institute to analyze what CEOs really look like. You may be surprised to learn that the portrait of a CEO is quite different from what we expect.
CEO Myth #1: You have to have an elite education
When Botelho and Powell looked at their database, only 7% of successful CEOs came from Ivy League institutions. On the other hand, 8% of them didn’t graduate from college at all.
CEO Myth #2: You must be a charismatic extrovert
Introverts are just as likely as extroverts to find success in business, according to Botelho and Powell’s CEO Genome Project. In fact, there is research to suggest that introverts can make more creative and empathetic leaders, which provides a real leg up in many business environments.
CEO Myth #3: You were destined for greatness from an early age
Over 70 percent of the CEOs that Botelho and Powell interviewed didn’t set out to become CEOs early in life. Only when they came within reach of the C-suite—typically after fifteen-plus years of experience—did they start to feel that maybe they could achieve and thrive in the role. It’s not innate charisma—it’s deliberate career choices and habits that they’ve built over the course of their life that have made them successful.
With The CEO Next Door, Botelho and Powell debunk these myths and more, offering a research-based roadmap to success. For more information and to view the rest of course, visit the Next Big Idea Club.