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CEO Excellence

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CEO Excellence

The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest


15 min read
7 take-aways
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What's inside?

Discover the six mind-sets that separate the best CEOs from the rest.

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  • Analytical
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  • Overview


Advice telling chief executive officers how to achieve superior results saturates the market, but this collaborative effort from three McKinsey senior partners – Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller and Vikram Malhotra – sets a high bar. Extensive, in-depth research from McKinsey and the authors’ interviews with 67 corporate leaders yield a treasure trove of rich information, original guidance and pragmatic insight for established and aspiring CEOs. The authors and their experts tell corporate chief executives how to satisfy the endless demands of one of the world’s toughest jobs. The book outlines six pivotal chief executive officer responsibilities – “Setting the direction, aligning the organization, mobilizing through leaders, engaging the board, connecting with stakeholders and managing personal effectiveness” – and reveals the mind-sets that distinguish the best CEOs from the rest.


CEOs need six expert mind-sets to deal with their relentless responsibilities.

Ask three CEOs to identify their most important responsibilities, and they will give you three different answers. Yet everyone agrees that CEOs shape organizational performance – particularly regarding finances. Top-level CEOs generate nearly three times more total return to stakeholders than less-effective CEOs. A $1,000 investment in a typical S&P 500 index fund produces roughly $1,600 in gains in the course of 10 years. Investing in companies led by the highest-ranked CEOs will earn around $10,000 during that time span.

Today’s CEOs influence much more than rates of return, given society’s growing concern with human rights, health care, the environment and other issues. Performance means everything. In the last couple of decades, for example, roughly a third of Fortune 500 CEOs lost their jobs after less than three years on the job. Two out of five new CEOs don’t last 18 months.

In addition to their expected duties, CEOs must stay current with developing technologies, cybersecurity, diversity, inclusion and much more. And every CEO must...

About the Authors

Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller and Vikram Malhotra are senior partners at McKinsey & Company. Carolyn Dewar has published more than 30 articles in the Harvard Business Review and the McKinsey Quarterly. Scott Keller’s books include Leading Organizations and Beyond Performance.

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