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Leadership Myths

Updated: Aug 8, 2022

I was a young Romanian woman working in Technology in a highly dynamic global business. I felt quite different from others from an early age throughout my career, both in personality and ways of thinking. I also have an introverted nature, and I need my recharge and alone thinking time often. But I had bold visions, aspirations and career ambitions. So I wondered what makes world-class leaders? Can I make it? Where do I need to grow?

Based on a data-driven study on 2600 leaders, mainly CEOs, here is what I learned a while back. Coming back to this info now, it looks more relevant than ever.

First, the myths:

  1. Top universities. Only 7% of CEOs graduate from a top university.

  2. Greatness from an early age. Over 70% of CEOs only set their sight on the top job late in their career.

  3. No setbacks. They had five to seven setbacks on their journey to the top.

  4. Exceptional charisma and confidence. Introverted CEOs are more likely to exceed board expectations. Confidence does double the chances of becoming a CEO but does not increase performance on the job.

  5. Checking all boxes. Even the highest performing CEOs have three to six development areas. However, high-performing CEOs know how to create excellence at a team level.

  6. Working harder than anyone else. Data shows no direct relationship between working hard and the probability of becoming a CEO.

  7. Experience trumps all. First-time CEOs were not less likely to meet or exceed expectations than those with prior experience.

  8. Flawless resume. 45% of CEOs had a career blowup in their working life. How they managed that failure sets them apart for the big job.

  9. Female CEOs succeed differently from men. Women may have different leadership styles, but gender has no impact on the probability of delivering strong results.

Surprising? Not really. World-class leaders share more impactful capabilities, but myths do stand in the way of observing those capabilities.

Examine your myths first. Then focus on growing your capabilities.

Final Note:

Credit goes to The CEO Genome project, available at for their extensive research of over 10 years. The data set of assessments of 17,000 C-suite executives, including more than 2,000 CEOs — covers all major industry sectors, and companies ranging from the Fortune 100 down to $10 million businesses.


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