Seven Surprises for New CEOs
(Michael Porter)

Knowledge Center

Summary, forum, best practices, expert tips and information sources.

The Seven Surprises for New CEOs were described for the first time in the HBR of October 2004 in an article regarding CEO Leadership by Michael Porter, Jay Lorsch and Nitin Nohria.

As a newly appointed CEO, one may think to finally have the power to set strategy. The authority to make things happen, and full access to the finer points of your business. But if you expect that this job is so simple, you'd better wake up now. You bear full responsibility for your company's well-being. But you are a few steps away from many important business factors. You have more power than anybody in the corporation, but you need to use it with extreme caution.

Porter, Lorsch and Nohria have discovered that nothing - not even leading a large business within the company - fully prepares a person to be the chief executive.

The seven most common SURPRISES for new CEOs:

  1. You can't run the company. The sheer volume and intensity of external demands take many by surprise. Almost every new chief executive struggles to manage the time drain of attending to shareholders, analysts, board members, industry groups, politicians, and other constituencies.
  2. Giving orders is very costly. No proposal should reach the CEO for final approval, unless he can ratify it with enthusiasm. Before then, everyone working on the matter should have raised and resolved any potential deal breakers. The CEO should be brought into the discussion only at strategically significant moments to give feedback and support.
  3. It is hard to know what is really going on. Certainly, CEOs are flooded with information, but reliable information is surprisingly scarce. All information coming to the top of the enterprise is filtered, sometimes with good intentions, sometimes with not such good intentions.
  4. You are always sending a message. The words and actions of a CEO, however small or said casually, are instantly spread and amplified, scrutinized, interpreted and sometimes drastically misinterpreted. Compare: Charismatic Leadership
  5. You are not the boss. Although the CEO may sit on the top of the management hierarchy, he still reports to the board of directors. Ultimately, the board is in charge. Not the CEO.
  6. Pleasing shareholders is not the goal. CEOs must recognize that, ultimately, it is only long-term value creation that is important. Today's growth expectations or even the stock price are not so relevant. Compare: Moral Purpose
  7. You are still only human. CEO should recognize that he needs connections to the world outside his organization, at home and in the community. In order to avoid that he is completely consumed by his corporate life.

These Seven Surprises for new CEOs carry some important lessons:

  • First, as a new CEO you must learn to manage organizational context rather than focus on daily operations.
  • Second, you must recognize that your position does not confer the right to lead, nor your position guarantees the loyalty of the organization.
  • Finally, you must remember that you are subject to a range of limitations, even though others might treat you as if you were omnipotent.

Special Interest Group

Seven Surprises for New CEOs Special Interest Group.

Special Interest Group (22 members)


Forum about the Seven Surprises for New CEOs.

The Top Leader's View: A Leadership Labyrinth
Working on my dissertation in Leadership raised an interesting series of questions for me. 1. Is there still a leadersh (...)
2 reactions
🔥 NEW The Importance of Empathy, Gratitude and Generosity for New Leaders
New leaders encounter challenges as they move up the ladder, a disturbing one of which is so called the ‘power paradox’. (...)
0 reactions
CEO's Dilemma: Infinite Business Possibilities in a Finite Company!
In an organizations, there are many choices to make about the dimensions of strategy, management, intelligence, synergy (...)
0 reactions
Best Practices

The top-rated discussion topics about the Seven Surprises for New CEOs. Here you will find the most valuable ideas and practical suggestions.

🥇 Chief Enabling Officer
In a predominantly knowledge-based organization, it would be more productive for a CEO to see himself as a 'Chief Enabli (...)
46 reactions

🥈 Even CEOs Need Time to Learn...
Anyone new to a position is a learner; most CEOs will not readily appreciate that. To be the top boss is a cherished am (...)
1 reactions

🥉 Don't underestimate the emotional and positional power a CEO has
The emotional and positional power a CEO exercises is drastically underestimated by new CEOs. Serious attention to words (...)
0 reactions

Even CEOs Need Support from their Team
CEOs need to know that the team they are leading is very important if they want be successful. The support from the te (...)
2 reactions

Alternate Meanings of CEO: Chief Excitement Officer
Besides the standard - and the already mentioned in this forum: - we can also see CEO as: - Chief Excitement Offi (...)
1 reactions

Being a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is Easy
The CEO can choose between authority or knowledge. Trusting the team is a key for success. A CEO should focus only on st (...)
1 reactions

On #6: Shareholder Pleasing is not the Goal
Well I think Porter is missing an important point when he says pleasing shareholders is not a goal. I am not a professor (...)
1 reactions

7 More CEO Surprises
1. He can be the loneliest person in the middle of nowhere. 2. Confidentiality on certain issues makes him lonelier sti (...)
0 reactions

Undercutting CEO Power
In Fortune (Europe, March 12, 2007, no. 4) Geoff Colvin mentions some new rules that decrease the authority of existing (...)
0 reactions

CEO: the Strategist of Business
Despite of surprising himself with a lot of challenges, the CEO will be accountable for an effective strategy applied wi (...)
0 reactions

Combine Top Down with Bottom Up Thinking
I guess sometimes man must change his view to the company; not always looking and , but sometimes explore a as well. Th (...)
1 reactions

Assimilating the Right Type of Information
A CEO is usually flooded with information which can become confusing. What the CEO ought to do is to place all relevant (...)
0 reactions

On #3: It's Hard to Know what is Really Going On
What are the most effective ways for a CEO to determine if the information she/he is getting is accurate? (...)
2 reactions

On #7: Even a CEO is Still Only Human
I gained a better understanding upon review of the seven most common surprises for new CEO's. I also favor the idea of , (...)
2 reactions

CEO is a Facilitator and Needs Followers
A new CEO must share his/her vision to the organization in order to attract followers. In the whole process, the CEO mus (...)
1 reactions

Surprises to a CEO: You Need to Deal with Undercurrents
As a ship sails along the sea, there are undercurrents that tend to limit speed and change direction. The captain of the (...)
0 reactions

Expert Tips

Advanced insights about the Seven Surprises for New CEOs. Here you will find professional advices by experts.

Leadership is a Momentum Game..

What Early Actions are Most Important for Leaders? (...)

Myths on REACHING the top

What Experiences, Qualifications and Characteristics are Needed to Reach the Top? (...)

Categeories of CEO's

Leadership Styles, CEO Types (...)

Five Leadership Development Ideas

Leadership Development, Management Development, Coaching, Mentoring (...)

Pursuing a Dual Corporate Purpose

CSR, Impact on Society, Balancing Financial and Social Goals, Dual Purpose (...)

Mintzberg: 7 Myths on Management

Management Development, Leadership Development, Managers versus Leaders, MBA (...)

Leadership Best Practices

Leadership Development, Leadership Tips (...)

Identify and Develop Leadership Abilities

Leadership Development, Management Development, Coaching, Mentoring (...)

Founder-CEO firms

HR, FInance (...)

Effective Top Management Teams in Multinationals. Requirements and Characteristics

Board of Directors, Leadership Teams, Multinationals, Top Team Management (...)

LEADER: Best Practices for Effective Leadership Behavior

Leadership Behavior, Leadership Effectiveness, Leadership Style (...)

How Should CEOs Manage and Communicate the Main Messages?

Strategic Communication, Leader Skills, Communication Skills, Leader Perspective (...)

CEOs Time Spent per Stakeholder / Constituency

CEO Coaching, CEO Time Management, Stakeholder Management (...)

How Long Should a CEO Remain in the Job?

CEO Performance, CEO Life Cycle, CEO Tenure, CEO and Board Relation (...)

Reasons and Remedies to Dissonance in Leaders

Primal Leadership, Emotional Intelligence, Stress, Cognitive Dissonance, Resonance (...)

The Importance of Culture in Organizational Performance

Organizational Culture, Corporate Culture, Employee Behavior, Organizational Performance (...)
Information Sources

Various sources of information regarding the Seven Surprises for New CEOs. Here you will find powerpoints, videos, news, etc. to use in your own lectures and workshops.

CEO's influence on Performance

CEO, Firm performance (...)

Power and Politics in Organizations

Power Relations, Bases of Power, Political Behavior, Politics, Political Tactics, Organizational Politics (...)

The Fatal Coaching Mistake by Managers

Coaching, Mentoring, Management, Leadership (...)

Video Introduction to Leadership

First Understanding of Leadership, Trainings, Workshops (...)

CEO Succession Planning

Succession Planning (...)

Steven Covey on his 8 Habits of Effective People / Managers / Leaders

Understanding the 8 Habits of Covey. Leadership Development, Management Development, Coaching, Mentoring (...)

Compare with the Seven Surprises for New CEOs:  Seven Habits (Covey)  |  Servant-Leadership  |  Level 5 Leadership  |  EPIC ADVISERS  |  Leadership Pipeline  |  Coaching  |  Mentoring  |  Value Based Management  |  Core Group Theory  |  Strategic Stakeholder Management  |  SMART  |  Path-Goal  |  Leadership Continuum  |  Situational Leadership  |  Theory X Theory Y  |  4 Dimensions of Relational Work  |  Leadership Styles  |  Strategic Intent  |  Results-Based Leadership

Return to Management Hub: Change & Organization  |  Communication & Skills  |  Leadership  |  Strategy

More Management Methods, Models and Theory

Special Interest Group Leader

Are you an expert in the Seven Surprises for New CEOs? Sign up for free

Link to this knowledge center

Copy this code to your web site:


About 12manage | Advertising | Link to us / Cite us | Privacy | Suggestions | Terms of Service
© 2020 12manage - The Executive Fast Track. V15.6 - Last updated: 29-11-2020. All names ™ of their owners.