This book, by Debra Benton, reads fairly quickly. This is the first title of hers I have read although she has previously written books that used a similar approach of interviewing business leaders.

The focus is on identifying  and improving personal breadth and effectiveness with an emphasis on the traits and behaviors that are found in business leaders and are likely to be looked for in future leaders (emphasis on the later).

The introduction starts with "Right now, where you work, there are people behind closed doors desperately trying to find someone to promote or develop for a larger role. When your name comes up, you want one of those authoritative-looking people to stand up and say...(insert examples of how effective you are here)." Benton, chapter by chapter, goes through a list of the areas where she believes that the subtle and subjective differentiations occur -- the center of which is craftsmanship, communication, collaboration, and confidence. It's one thing to "be ready" and something a little different to have people recognize that you "are ready".

This book does not belong in the list of the first ten books in my management library. But, it makes the next ten -- for the simple reason that re-skimming it every so often will be a good way for me to make a high level  check that, in the day to day, I am not losing track of the traits and behaviors that will help me reach some goals and develop into an effective leader in my organization. The book has a little bit of a 'big company' feel to it but I would recommend it.

debrabenton's picture

As the author of "CEO Material" (McGraw-Hill, May 2009) you're doing exactly what I hoped for -- using the book as a self-trainer to reinforce the good leadership skills you're already doing and also using it as a checklist for things to work on.

Regardless of the size of the organization you're working in (even if it's your own company of one) there are traits/skills required to  be effective in getting the right things done:

-take a stand but not run over others

-make things better across the board, not just in your area

-handle whatever hits you no matter how many pressures

-have an impeccable reputation

-be able to distinguish yourself but not grandstand

-choose your bosses very carefully

-ensure the message you send is the message you intend

-set the example for others to emulate

-understand it's okay to stumble and then learn from it

-consistently exceed expectations (your own as well as other's)

-enjoy your work and your life because it's all for naught otherwise

-get pushed up from below as well as pulled up from above


You can come from any walk of life. You can be tall, short, attractive, not so attractive, smart, or not so smart.  It's easier than you think to be a stellar leader. Whether you are trapped in a male or female body, you can be a leader in any organization -- it's going to happen to someone and it might as well be you.

jhack's picture


Nice review, looks like an intriguing book...  Would be interested to know whether the focus is on "traits" or "behaviors"


Thank you for joining the conversation.  Always good to hear from the authors here on the forums. 

John Hack

CalKen's picture

Before I start, I need to confess that I have not read this book. I have read similar books with similar titles and have had real bad tastes in my mouth from them. So, I apologize ahead of time for being naturally bitter about these sorts of books. With that being said, I am always on the lookout for books like these that actually take a systemic view of critical management skills required to be efficient. And, since the author replied to this thread I see the opportunity to learn more about the book before buying it (I live in an international location where libraries are not readily available so I cannot review it before buying it).

Being a devil's advocate, I would like to toss out the following:

I have seen a lot of "self-help books" that says that "if you do X and Y and not do Z then you can become a CEO". The problem I have with these sorts of books is that it assumes that all CEO's are the same way.

As Peter Drucker says, CEO's come in many flavors and sizes. And, not all of them are great. On a personal note, I have no aspirations for being a CEO of an organization (I was thrust into the fast-track for upper management, peeked into it, did not like it, and left) and as such I would think that any book that can state the traits that good CEO's have (much like Peter Drucker does) and helps on focus on those traits while also talking about what a person that aspires to be a CEO can expect, that would be helpful (based on my experience). I have seen too many people thrust into upper management based on generalities like "he is a great engineer so he will automatically make a great CEO" or "he got his MBA from Stanford, so he should automatically make a good CEO". Unfortunately, I have seen too many times where the opposite is true. That is not to say that these people cannot be CEO's, just that their behavior and skill set used has to change dramatically from, when they were worker-types. And, corporate initiatives like leadership development teams and "fast track" careers do not do much to help. There are just simply many people that no matter how much training or books you give them, they will not make good CEO material.

I would love to hear from the author as to how the book addresses these skill sets. Although my above post can seem a bit bitter and controversial I am just naturally skeptical of "complete cure" type books. I look forward to hearing from the author on this, or if anyone can point me in the direction of a good review of this book.

Apologies, I will step of fthe soapbox. Thanks in advance, I appreciate your time.