I’ve written this book for anyone interested in the art, practice and daily rollercoaster of being a chief executive: what seems to work, how it feels, how to be happy doing it. I hope it is useful for prospective, new and established chief executives, their deputies, senior managers, chairs and all those whose waking hours are affected by the boss’s approach, including the indispensable PAs in every organisation. If you have a hunch that one day you might be a Chief Executive, I hope it makes the prospect less daunting and more real. Equally, if you are keeping well out of the fray and are simply a student of management, I hope the lived-in and of course idiosyncratic perspective of one chief executive adds to the many excellent volumes and resources on leadership and management.
The book is structured around the dynamics of a chief executive role, from applying for your first chief executive post to your departure, and explores from my own lived experience, with anecdotes and examples from the experience of others, many of the standard topics you are likely to find in the management literature. But here you will read more of the thought processes, the practicalities and the things I should have done more or less of, rather than encounter a theoretical framework. At its core, unashamedly, is my belief that good business sits well with, rather than cuts across, the fair and thoughtful leader and vice versa. Here and there I draw on some of my areas of interest, including forestry and yoga, where they have helped make sense of being a chief executive, and strengthened me. Whatever one’s your preferences for keeping well – and I am prepared to accept that possibly the world does not need that many forester yogis – the book touches on the importance of staying physically and mentally content and fit. Well-being, whilst largely generated outside working hours, can certainly be jeopardised during them.
When my daughter was about fifteen, we went to a lengthy film about a family wedding going awry. I came out more enamoured of it than she was. After I expressed enthusiasm she sighed tolerantly and said ‘Well, yes, I guess the oldest stories always bear repetition’. So here I’m taking her at her word – and hoping my lens brings some new insights on challenges you may have read about, or experienced from a distance. If you sit down with the book and a drink after a taxing and lonely week, or perhaps as you toy with a chief executive application, and you derive some strength from it, it will have achieved its purpose.