Where Do You Go To Learn To Be a CEO?

21 Feb / Where Do You Go To Learn To Be a CEO?

Author: imswebadmin
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photo by Jorg Meyer

Integrated Management Services CEO John D. Calhoun says everything he knows about leadership and strategy was learned on the job. Well, this recipient of the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal must be a quick study.

BUILD MEMBER: John D. Calhoun

POSITION: CEO, Integrated Management Services in Jackson, Mississippi

BUSINESS: IMS, founded 1996 with cofounder ROD L. HILL (now president and COO). IMS Designs, engineers, and builds transportation systems (highways, airports, rail lines) and water distribution systems (pipelines, drainage facilities, canals, dams).


ANNUAL SALES: $10-15 million

CUSTOMERS YOU’VE HEARD OF: U.S. Department of the Army, Nissan.

OTHER LOCATIONS: Greenville, Miss., Memphis, Tenn., New Orleans, and Detroit.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR BIGGEST RECENT MISTAKE? Wow! I have made so many…. I am a risk taker. Hasty decision making. I am guilty of failing to understand the real organizational context and culture which has led to the current situation. I have also been guilty of not investing the time to understand the core issues behind a problem, preferring to skate across the surface to draw conclusions.


  • Analytics and Big Data
  • Social Media
  • Global Business Networks
  • Customer-Driven Innovation
  • Talent Development
  • Building an Adaptive Organization


ANY MOTIVATIONAL QUOTES ON YOUR WALLS? “We will either find a way, or make one.” – Hannibal

THE HARDEST QUESTION ON THE TEST: The first problem is: Where do you go to learn to be a CEO? No training or other job actually prepares you to run a company. The only thing that prepares you to run a company is running a company.

This means that you will face a broad set of things that you don’t know how to do that require skills that you don’t have. Nevertheless, everybody will expect you to know how to do them, because, well, you are the CEO. If you manage a team of 10 people, it’s quite possible to do so with very few mistakes or bad behaviors. If you manage an organization of 200 people it is quite impossible. At a certain size, your company will do things that are so bad that you never imagined that you’d be associated with that
kind of incompetence. Seeing people fritter away money, waste each other’s time, and do sloppy work can make you feel bad.

If you are the CEO, it may well make you sick. And to rub salt into the wound and make matters worse, it’s your fault. No CEO ever has a smooth path to a great company.

COMPANIES YOU LOVE: Target Department Store because they worked hard to actively market the brand distinctly from Wal-Mart. Price is important, but equal emphasis is placed on design and style. Target’s emphasis on its brand’s image from an early stage has allowed it to achieve what no other discount retailer has in North America. Target is just outright a cool store.

COMPANIES YOU STUDY: Google — I’m constantly trying to understand its culture, its obsession with data, and its acquisition strategy. Google may be one of the best companies when it comes to acquisitions by combining acquisition target discipline with a smart way of integrating the acquired company.


Original article and credit: The Build Network “Where do you go to learn to be a CEO?”

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