Fast-track executives pay $27,500 to attend a five-day program called Top Talent, put on by management consultant RHR International. They learn that the promotion to chief executive is nothing like their many previous promotions. The top job is complex, lonely and laden with land mines that could blow up if they lean on the very skills that took them to the top. The CEO title “isn’t an award, it’s the beginning,” says Ram Charan, a management consultant and CEO trainer. “Anyone who says ‘I’ve arrived,’ had better watch their ego.” Among the differences: Executives on their way up like to brainstorm, talk over ideas before a decision is made. But CEOs have to worry about “amplification,” off-the-cuff comments that get blown out of proportion because they emanate from the top. Most CEOs fine-tuned their leadership skills during the adolescence of their careers. Those skills have worked so well and brought them so far, that changing for the top job seems counterintuitive. But they must change, says RHR, because qualities like a never-say-die attitude can backfire when a company is marching down the wrong path. Some current CEOs question whether any training can prepare a new chief executive for the challenges and demands of the job. Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy believes “a can-do attitude (is) more important than deep CEO training. Baptism by fire works pretty well.”

USA Today 30 Nov 2003