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Thought Leadership

“The CEO Test”: A Conversation with Adam Bryant and Kevin Sharer

March 18, 2021

The CEO Test: Master the Challenges That Make or Break All Leaders co-authors, Adam Bryant and Kevin Sharer, joined Deborah Lee James, the 23rd Secretary of the US Air Force, an ExCo Group Mentor and author of Aim High: Chart Your Course and Find Success, to share pragmatic insights and compelling stories about the key reasons why leaders succeed or fail in their roles, and how to navigate those universal challenges.

Bryant and Sharer bring a rare breadth and depth of experience to the subject of leadership. Adam Bryant, an ExCo Group Managing Director and former NYT journalist, has conducted in-depth interviews with more than 600 CEOs. Kevin Sharer spent more than two decades as president and then CEO of Amgen, where he led its expansion from $1 billion in annual revenues to nearly $16 billion. He has served on many boards and is a sought-after ExCo Group Mentor for CEOs of global companies.

A breakdown of the topics discussed can be found below:

2:29 – How Adam Bryant and Kevin Sharer met and their process for writing this book

7:46 – The winnowing process for distilling the topics of the book into 7 key universal challenges for leaders

10:51 – Simplifying Complexity

16:30 – Building High-Performing Teams

24:51 – Mastering the inner game of leadership

28:38 – Which leaders have overcome the 7 challenges and exhibited these leadership qualities and behaviors

34:55 – Scaling: In this era of unicorns and billionaires in first-time CEO positions, scaling has been handled differently with different levels of success. What are the lessons to be learned from these cases?

Audience Questions:

37:39 – Research shows that many CEOs are not visionary. What role does vision play in CEO success?

40:02 – What roles does humility play in exceptional leadership?

42:10 – What are some practical tips to work on our listening skills?

47:26 – What role can executive development play in preparing potential CEOs for the leadership tests in the book?

50:22 – Do women and People of Color face the same challenges identified in the book?


About the Book:

The CEO Test: Master the Challenges That Make or Break All Leaders explores the challenges of leadership that remain enormously difficult and elusive. These challenges are brought into their highest and sharpest relief in the corner office, but they are hardly unique to chief executives. All leaders face their own version of leadership tests, and the authors draw on the distilled wisdom, stories, and lessons from hundreds of chief executives to show how every aspiring leader can master these challenges and lead like a CEO. These foundational leadership skills will make all aspiring executives more effective in their roles today and lift the trajectory of their careers.

You can purchase the book here.