How to Think Like a CEO - Debra A. Benton PDF

How to Think Like a CEO - Debra A. Benton

Learn here what are the 22 main characteristics you must have to become a successful CEO and lead a company efficiently!

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The author Debra A. Benton discusses in the book "How to Think Like a CEO" how leaders are successful. She bases her information on interviews with hundreds of CEOs of large corporations and with well-known leaders as well as public figures.

Benton, who lectures at leadership conferences and executive efficiency, also explains the key principles behind the success of these executives. The book is an easy-to-read guide that includes many well-known basics and some not so much.

In this summary we have separated for you some principles that she explains in her book. They are divided into 4 overviews, which makes the read more smooth and comprehensive.

Got interested in being a better leader in your company? Stay with us in this summary and discover how!

The book "How to Think Like a CEO"

It was released in 1999 and has 470 pages. It contains 22 vital traits that make a complete CEO, explaining why some people make it to the top while others don't.

In this summary, we've separated all the book's teachings into 4 overviews in order to make it more easier to read and understand the concepts.

Who is Debra A. Benton?

Debra A. Benton is a globally recognized executive coach, bestselling author and lecturer in leadership and executive efficiency conferences. She is also a keynote speaker, helping leaders to develop communication and differentiation.

She has been elected as one of the top 10 coaches in the world by Top CEO Coaches. Names like Tony Robbins, Ram Charan and Marshall Goldsmith have had the same privilege.

Why should I read it?

It is suitable for individuals that are looking for changes in their mindset, and need some good insights to better manage their team. Even if you aren't a leader, but aim to be one day, this book can prepare you for this dream.

Through its 22 key teachings for success, you will feel more comfortable to take a leadership role and make a difference in your environment.

What are the key ideas of the book “How to Think Like a CEO”?

  • To become a CEO, you should think like one;
  • You must have confidence in your skills if you want to reach the top;
  • Even if you face difficulties, keep moving forward;
  • Good CEOs are good actors, they know how to dance according to the music;
  • Don't try to maintain the status quo. Use your originality to promote change and improvement;
  • Becoming a CEO is like climbing a mountain, you need to know how to use the ropes and overcome obstacles during your climb;
  • Having control of your posture is crucial, since business and life success depends more on mental attitude than mental ability;
  • Even if you see the big picture, pay attention to the details;
  • You can make your message more powerful if you use humor, drama, and style to convey it.

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The basic equipment needed to become a CEO

You can compare the rise of the corporate ladder with mountain climbing. In both are required certain qualities, which are like equipment, to get to the top. You also need to be prepared to face difficult and frightening situations, just as if you have been climbing higher and higher on a hill.

Debra Benton says that you must establish a firm place to step on and learn how to use the equipment. From this, you can rise and go through the difficulties that come along the way.

To increase your chances of getting there, try to understand the CEO you work for. You will learn more by working with a good director as you have more chances of managing a successful organization.

However, you want to work for a near-perfect CEO who has the 22 vital features to get the job done. This way, you can work to develop these characteristics in yourself too, always seeking continuous improvement.

Eight Fundamental Qualities

The eight fundamental qualities that a CEO must have are:

He is self-assured

A great boss needs to be confident that he can deliver the results. Uncertain people don't make it to the top. Good CEOs surround themselves with people who are confident and who want to be promoted.

A director with no confidence will make those around him feel dubious and nervous. Acting with confidence can inspire others to act in the same way.

Have control over your posture

Master your posture. Adopt an attitude that fits each situation, such as being more energetic or friendly when you need it. Being optimistic and taking positive actions also helps.


A top executive perseveres and overcomes obstacles. Even if other people try to discourage you, stand firm on the path mapped out to reach your goal. Even if you experience disappointments, frustrations and setbacks, move on.

However, you should be prepared to give up and reduce losses if you notice that you are on a bad project or making a mistake.

Continuous Improvement

Continue learning so you get to know more about your work. Learn by talking to people, analyzing their mistakes, and studying the experiences of other workers.

Honesty and Ethics

The author Debra Benton says that you must speak the truth, be whole, fair, authentic and frank. Don't engage in fraud or deception to take personal advantage. Bring uncomfortable problems into the discussion, so they can be resolved without exaggeration. That way you can get a good reputation.

Think before you speak

By doing this, you can control what you speak and choose your words carefully. You can express yourself to get the desired result. In addition, you can avoid being repetitive and improving your oratory. Remember, sometimes it's better to be quiet.


They can express their imagination by being innovative and original. This vital trait is the basis for human development and necessary to respond to change.


As you get better and develop, keep being modest. Avoid being presumptuous or overbearing. You want to be recognized for your accomplishments without becoming arrogant about them.

Practices that will help you progress

Focus on style

According to Debra, you must employ the right behavior for each person you deal with. Effective styles include being decisive, sincere or collaborative. Know your own behavior.

Be a little wild

Often the walk to the top requires you to take risks. You need courage that is based on both reason and your instincts.

Strike a balance between being bold without focus or purpose and being a coward for fear of any change.

Always put your limits out of your comfort zone.

Be humorous

The book "How to Think Like a CEO" also emphasizes that humor is important to keep work fun. The idea is to be optimistic, while being serious about consequences, behaviors and values. Humor can be an important tool to keep your employees productive.

Be theatrical to express yourself

A little drama can help you get a message out more powerfully. A good CEO feels comfortable working in different situations with different people. Remember, people are always paying attention on you, so by acting you can get the exact picture you want.

Be thorough

Pay attention to detail. Even as others are working to implement your ideas, stay alert about what is happening around you.

Keep the biggest goal always in mind. Be aware of the details that make you precise, which helps you to be sincere.

The final steps to get to the top

Being efficient at your job has two sides: gross knowledge, which is technical excellence, and the lighter part, which is your ability to relate to other people.

If you are good with people, you can learn the technical details. The key to success is getting the information you need from people, not from computers.

For this, you must develop the ability to understand people and influence them effectively. You can be an expert in some important areas of your company, such as marketing, engineering or technology. So, you can move to other areas to learn more.

You should always be ready to fight for your team to give your support. You should support and give credit to people if you want them to help you and give you credit.

If you make a mistake, always be willing to admit it. That way you can correct this error and move on.

A repeated error demonstrates lack of attention to detail or a bad attitude. However, although you acknowledge the error, you shouldn't accept it easily.

Communicate clearly and be direct with other people. Write or speak in a simple and easy way. Give your employees clear instructions, so they can do what you want.

In addition, Debra Benton says that frank and direct conversation inspires other people to act in the same way with you, which reduces the chance of communication failure.

Be kind to others, it helps you get along with people as you walk to the top. You can still make tough decisions and require work to be done, but if you are friendly, people will be more responsive.

Being curious and inquisitive is also very important because by asking questions you can learn more things. Look for answers about anything you don't fully understand. Build your questions comfortably. If the question seems like an attack, people can get defensive.

You also need to be competitive as it is important to have a healthy fighting spirit. This will help you in your personal and professional growth, as well as allowing you to go over obstacles and win victories.

However, choose your battles well so that you enter only those that are worth fighting. Don't engage in destructive combat, as you may need to work with your opponents in the future as well.

Be willing to change and adapt. With flexibility, you can adjust your answers according to the circumstances, it doesn't mean being unruly. In fact, it means being able to change and not stubbornly continue in an unsustainable position.

Try to tell good stories, it helps you to communicate. You can dramatize an example or use pictures to be clear, memorable and more helpful with people.

More books about leadership

In the book "Storytelling: Stories that Mark", the author Adilson Xavier provides tools to improve your narrative. Consequence of these techniques is the improvement of your communication and persuasion.

Jim Collins explains in the book "Good to Great" why some companies reach success while others stay in mediocrity. He also gives fundamental tips to develop a company.

In "Influence", Robert B. Cialdini gives some strategies and techniques to persuade and influence people. Regardless of your position in the company, the art of persuasion is crucial if you want to grow and reach your goals.

So, how can I be a better leader?

Here we have separated the main characteristics needed to be a good leader, they were explained in the last overview:

  • Be good at your job and be willing to help others;
  • Fight for your team;
  • Always be willing to admit your mistakes;
  • Communicate directly;
  • Be kind;
  • Show yourself curious, ask questions;
  • Have competitiveness;
  • Be open to changes and adaptations, be flexible;
  • Be a good storyteller.

Did you like this summary of the book "How to Think Like a CEO"?

Are you ready to be the CEO your company is needing? Did you find this content useful? Leave your feedback in the comments!

In addition, if you are interested in the book, the full edition is available for purchase by clicking on the image below:

Book 'How to Think Like a CEO'