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Before I Was CEO: Life Stories and Lessons from Leaders Before They Reached the Top

ISBN: 978-1-119-27808-5
240 pages
November 2016
Before I Was CEO: Life Stories and Lessons from Leaders Before They Reached the Top (1119278082) cover image

Description

Have you always known what you wanted to be in life?

What are some “watershed moments” that made you who you are?

When did you get on track to become a successful CEO?

It started with three questions at Davos. The younger Peter Vanham looked to the answers from the elite leaders he asked to validate his own career choice, and the rich, private wisdom he received revealed more about building a career than he’d found anywhere else. He shares it all with you in Before I Was CEO.

For everyone who lays awake at night wondering if they’re heading up or down the corporate ladder, this collection of personal stories from a remarkable group of the most accomplished men and women in business today proves everyone can put themselves in the C-suite by taking a variety of different paths—it’s all how you do it. Some found opportunity through adversity and others came by their big-break moments through serendipity. A group of them walked away from corporate life and lived in other ways and all of them made calculated moves to advance their careers. In their own words, read how it all unfolded, the tough decisions they wrestled, the risks and rewards they saw, and how it all came together. You don’t need a royal pedigree or Ivy League education to reach the top as long as you:

• Value family, leave home, and make informed decisions based on your dreams

• Take the first thirty-five years of your life to discover what you’re interested in and don’t rush to be a CEO

 • Strategically deal with failure, remember the lessons you learned, and adapt to situations you can’t change

You aren’t the first person to be at the crossroads you’re standing in, and with the motivating and instructive stories in Before I Was CEO, you may be answering a young journalist’s questions at Davos one day.

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Table of Contents

Foreword xi

Introduction xv

Part I: Adversity 1

Chapter 1: Finding True North 3

The Story of Orit Gadiesh, Bain & Company 4

The Story of David Kenny, IBM 9

Lessons Learned 14

Endnotes 18

Chapter 2: The Dot-Com Crisis 19

The Story of Kris Gopalakrishnan, Infosys 22

The Story of David Kenny, IBM (cont’d) 26

The Story of Raf Keustermans, Plumbee 28

The Unraveling & Lessons Learned 30

Part II: Opportunities 39

Chapter 3: Living the American Dream 41

The Story of Alberto Vitale, Random House 41

Lesson Learned 55

Endnotes 57

Chapter 4: Serendipity 59

The Story of Geoffrey Garrett, The Wharton School 61

The Story of Peter Henry, NYU Stern 68

Lessons Learned 75

Endnotes 76

Part III: Off the Beaten Track 77

Chapter 5: A Shining Path 79

The Story of Paul Bulcke, Nestle 80

Lessons Learned 90

Chapter 6: Brewing in the Brousse 92

The Story of Jean-Francois van Boxmeer, Heineken 92

Lessons Learned 104

Endnotes 109

Part IV: Breaking Free and Coming Home 111

Chapter 7: Breaking Free 113

The Story of Rick Goings, Tupperware Brands 114

The Story of Susan Cameron, Reynolds American Inc. 121

Lessons Learned 129

Endnotes 131

Chapter 8: Coming Home 132

The Story of Barry Salzberg, Deloitte 133

The Story of Johan Aurik, A.T. Kearney 139

The Story of Steve Davis, PATH 144

Lessons Learned 149

Endnotes 150

Part V: Role Models 151

Chapter 9: Father’s Footsteps 153

The Story of Richard Edelman, Edelman 155

The Story of Andrew Likierman, London Business School 159

The Story of Chris Burggraeve, Vicomte 165 165

Lessons Learned 174

Endnotes 176

Chapter 10: Practical Advice 178

The Story of Gail McGovern, American Red Cross 179

The Story of Patrick De Maeseneire, Jacobs Holding 184

Conclusions 195

What They Didn’t Need 195

Building a Career from Interests 196

Climbing the Ladder 198

Learning to Deal with Failure 198

Leaving Home 199

Making Informed Choices 200

Valuing the Importance of Family 201

Surfing theWaves of History 202

Setting Aside Your CEO Ambitions 204

Remembering Lessons Learned 205

Endnote 206

About the Author 207

Acknowledgments 208

Index 211

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Author Information

PETER VANHAM is a business writer and media strategist. He is the U.S. media lead and a global leadership fellow at the World Economic Forum, as well as a contributor to Financial Times, Business Insider, and Forbes. Prior to working in media, he was a management consultant at Bain & Company in Brussels. He holds an M.A. in Business & Economics from Columbia Journalism School and an M.S. in Commercial Engineering from the University of Leuven.

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