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The CEO Next Door:
The 4 Behaviors That Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders

Based on the research of The CEO Genome Project, an in-depth analysis of a sample of over 2,600 leaders drawn from a data set of 17,000 CEOs and C-suite executive assessments, 13,000 hours of interviews and two decades advising CEOs and executive boards.

Elena L. Botelho and Kim R. Powell overturn the myths about what it takes to get to the top and succeed.

Botelho and Powell’s groundbreaking research, the featured cover story in the Harvard Business Reviewreveals the common attributes and counterintui­tive choices that set apart successful CEOs. They draw out lessons that we can apply to our own careers, no matter where we are and where we strive to get to.

Much of what we hear about who gets to the top and how is wrong.

  • Those who be­come chief executives set their sights on the C-suite at an early age. In fact, over 70 per­cent of the CEOs didn’t have designs on the corner office until later in their careers.
  • You must graduate from an elite college. Only 7 percent of CEOs in the data set are Ivy League graduates—and 8 percent didn’t graduate from college at all.
  • To become a CEO you need a flawless résumé. The reality: 45 percent of CEO candidates had at least one major career blowup.

What those who reach the top do share are four key behaviors that anyone can mas­ter:

  • They are decisive
  • They are relentlessly reliable
  • They adapt boldly
  • They engage with stakeholders without shying away from conflict.

Culled from a breakthrough study of the most successful people in business and illus­trated by real-life stories from CEOs and boardrooms, The CEO Next Door offers career advice for everyone who aspires to get ahead.

Botelho and Powell, utilizing their research insights, tell us how to:

  • fast-track our careers by deploying the career catapults used by those who get to the top quickly
  • overcome the hidden handicaps to getting the job we want
  • avoid the five hazards that most commonly derail those promoted into a new role

For everyone who aspires to accelerate their career trajectory, The CEO Next Door is an essential guide.

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Advance Praise of the book

What does it take to succeed at the top of a company? Botelho and Powell offer the answer — and it’s not what you think. Drawing on a remarkable analysis of thousands of current and potential CEOs, they find that the best of the best share some common traits. They may not all come from fancy schools, but they do know how to make smart decisions, adapt to changed circumstances, and work honestly and directly with customers and employees. Whether you’re running a large organization, or simply have your eye on the corner office, this book should be your guide.

— Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of WHEN and DRIVE

CEOs come from different backgrounds in terms of economic status, education, family, gender, race, color, country of origin and sexual orientation. Majority of them do an adequate job, some of them perform exceptionally well while few are utter failures. Everyone have a unique story of their journey to get to this destination. So what differentiates the top performers, mediocre performers and the laggards? This seminal work by Elena and Kim does an outstanding job of identifying habits and traits of super stars versus average performers. The frequent references to real situations and real people makes the book even more credible. The book ends on an optimistic note that everyone in any leadership position with determination and drive can master the skills. This is a must read for those who aspire to make a difference.

— Raj L. Gupta, former CEO of Rohm and Haas and current Chairman Delphi Automotive PLC and Avantor Inc and Board Member at Arconic Inc, The Vanguard Group, and IRI

As a former CMO in the private sector and a CEO twice in the nonprofit space, I enjoyed every page of this book. The affirmation of being a CEO is not about background or good fortune but about performance and hard work based on decisiveness, impact, reliability and adapting boldly which sets the stage for any future or current CEO. A must read for all those leaders who care deeply about leading well.

— Vicki Escarra, former CMO of Delta Air Lines and CEO of Feeding America and Opportunity International

Botelho and Powell have written a first-rate guide for aspiring CEOs as well as for those who have already moved into the top spot. Compelling research and real-life stories provide a practical roadmap to leadership and career success that a reader can apply in any setting.

— Art Collins, Retired chairman & CEO, Medtronic, Inc

With a "Moneyball" approach to leadership, THE CEO NEXT DOOR uncovers 4 well researched CEO behaviors and shows the path to get to the top and stay there. A must read for aspiring leaders, CEOs, board members, and anyone responsible for grooming future leaders.

— Jim Donald, former CEO of Starbucks and Extended Stay Hotels

A must read for anyone serious about career success. Botelho and Powell weave together cutting-edge leadership research with practical advice and inspiring stories to create a useful and credible roadmap to the top.

— Marshall Goldsmith, #1 Leadership Thinker and author of many books including his newest New York Times bestseller, Triggers

I have been quoting your book extensively. Fantastic read and a great guide to leadership at the highest levels.

— Tim Buckley, CEO of The Vanguard Group

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About the Authors

ELENA L. BOTELHO grew up in Azerbaijan and Russia in a family of mathematicians and earned her MBA from Wharton. She has advised more than 200 CEOs and boards over nearly two decades, first as a strategy consultant at McKinsey and currently as a partner at ghSMART.

KIM R. POWELL grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and earned a BA from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management. For nearly twenty years, Kim has applied her passion for helping people to her role as a trusted advisor to CEOs and high-potential leaders, first at the Boston Consulting Group and now at ghSMART.

TAHL RAZ is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author. Find him at