Responsibility and running things come easy? But you’re no visionary founder? Maybe the corner office is in your future.

Some of our finest CEOs didn’t found the firms they lead—like GE’s Jack Welch. Nonfounder CEOs can take firms to unthought-of heights. Sometimes reinventing is easier than creating from whole cloth, so while founder-CEOs usually rank higher in mega-wealth, just becoming CEO pays big. And it is a rich road indeed—even if you don’t aspire to billionaire status. Fully half of America’s largest-firm CEOs make in excess of $10.8 million.1

Warning: Heavy is the head wearing the CEO crown. Firm successes are rarely wholly, directly attributed to CEOs—as in, “Success has a thousand fathers but failure is a bastard.” The bastard is the CEO, always. So a big failure can kill your future. CEOs must be tough—more now than ever. Failed CEOs don’t just lose their jobs—they frequently end up vilified by the media, even indicted! And CEOs are often demonized just for their big pay—which they get precisely because of the career risk they face.

On this road, you need leadership and executive qualities to rise, be anointed, and keep the throne. The world loves successful CEOs—heroes! But the difference between a hero, a zero, and a weirdo often isn’t much, as we’ll see.


Where to start? Like in Chapter 1, start where ...

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