Reflecting on 15 years of CEO Connection CEO Boot Camps yields this highly subjective view of the most important insights. We don’t take notes during the boot camps, but we do end each boot camp by asking the CEOs present three questions:


  1. What are you going to do differently tomorrow?
  2. What was most valuable?
  3. How can we make these boot camps even more valuable?


A few important themes keep coming back. These include:


  • The #1 job of a CEO is to own the vision and values – purpose.
  • The huge difference between a CEO’s job and any other job is managing the board, or owner, or owners. The most effective CEOs spend 20-30% of their time managing up (read board or owners,) and 20-30% of their time managing out (read customers, allies, community leaders, regulators and the like.) Do the math. That leaves less than 50% for managing down.
  • Experienced leaders’ #1 regret is not moving fast enough on people.
  • CEOs’ main issue with regard to innovation is the conflict between trying to deliver near-term results while paving the way to long-term success.
  • When it comes to communication: Be. Do. Say. Start with who you be. Then do things in line with those beliefs. Then, you deserve to say the words.


Module 1: Scaling up through a point of inflection

The #1 job of a CEO is to own the vision and values – purpose. CEOs at CEO Boot Camps get that. It is about inspiring and enabling. Not surprisingly, a lot of what people say they are going to do differently following a boot camp relates to vision, values and culture.

Module 2: Stewardship

A big “ah-ha” moment for a number of CEOs is understanding what type of board they need and have. Some without boards realize that having an advisory board can help. Some realize that their boards are controlled by others, operating in the shadows.

Poorly functioning boards often have poorly aligned board members. This can happen when different PE firms are focused on different timelines, or when individual board members get confused about their roles, perhaps having a hard time shifting from being CEO themselves to directing and advising someone else as CEO.

Two keys to working well with any stakeholders are understanding their real motivations and treating them like volunteers.

Module 3: People

Experienced leaders’ #1 regret is not moving fast enough on people. Many boot camp attendees commit to investing more in the differential capabilities, freeing up resources by simplifying or outsourcing areas in which they can be merely good enough to invest in those very few areas in which they need to be best-in-class.

Question #1 seems to be where to play. CEOs quickly move on to the importance of culture and the need to build personal relationships with key people – including rising stars and people that can tell them the truth.

Module 4: Setting the Stage for BRAVE Innovation

CEOs’ main issue with regard to innovation is the conflict between trying to deliver near-term results while paving the way to long-term success. Almost by definition, investment in innovation has a net short-term cost. Some CEOs ask people to innovate (and resource innovation) within their normal jobs. Some set up separate groups. Some accept that they’re going to have to fast-follow or acquire other organizations innovating. There is no one right answer.

Module 5: Communication

CEOs get that inspiring is about communication. It’s “Be. Do. Say.”. If what you say doesn’t match what you do, no one will believe you. If both don’t match your fundamental, underlying beliefs, eventually they won’t match each other. So, start with who you be. Then do things in line with those beliefs. Then, you deserve to say the words. Be. Do. Say.


Leadership is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose.

Own the purpose, the vision, the values. Be the chief inspirer.

Delegate almost everything else, focusing on enabling, linking and integrating.

Click here to request an executive summary of my new book, “CEO Boot Camp.”

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