Beth Taggart

How To Be A CEO with Ben Renshaw

An event review

Paul Barrow Director of Strategic Partnerships at Trinity McQueen joined our recent event, How to be a CEO with Ben Renshaw. Our CEO Sophie Devonshire was joined by Ben and John Holland Kaye for this live book launch.  Here are Paul's key takeaways from the event:

How to be a CEO with Ben Renshaw

Question:  If the Catch 22 of becoming a CEO is that company boards like to employ people who have already been a CEO then how do you get to be a CEO?

Answer:  Read How To Be A CEO by Ben Renshaw

Some background

  • Ben Renshaw is one of the foremost thinkers on leadership with ten books to his name and clients ranging from Warner Brothers to Sainsbury’s via Heathrow and TFL
  • He has interviewed 30 CEO’s for this new book ‘How To be A CEO’ - this included John Holland Kaye (CEO of Heathrow until last month)

During the session 

John Holland Kaye gave us some insights from his perspective as CEO of Heathrow:

  • John had previously been a consultant and worked his way up at Bass, Taylor Wimpey and Heathrow before taking on the role of CEO
    - he advised any potential CEO to set out to deliberately lead every sector within an organisation
    - assess whether there is any serious chance of succession in the organisation in which you want to be a CEO
    - you then need to be the lead candidate internally
    - and finally beat any external candidates
    - you need to know what the board is looking for
    - to achieve all of this he suggests some luck will help as there are no guarantees
    - “remember you are not about to do your predecessors job – you are doing your version of the job”
    - so you need a plan (after mastering the controls you need to know where you are heading for in years 3,4 & 5)
    - the people around you are key: make sure everyone wants to be on the bus with you (its about collaboration – not politics)

Ben’s takeaways on his book:

There are three things you need to master:

(1) PURPOSE (what is the point, the priority and the plan) + (2) PEOPLE (who are you doing it with)  + (3) PERFORMANCE (how are you going to deliver it)

He told us the story of how John and Ben had worked together with the team creating the Queen’s Terminal at Heathrow

  • Purpose was paramount: to go beyond the expected
  • You need to be Clear, Inspiring and Memorable
    - so that staff can repeat it back to others

Ben’s tips on interviewing for a CEO role:

  • Know your Purpose

  • Have a 60 second Narrative

  • And a 3 min Story ready

My Favourite Quotes from the event:

Ben: “Ultimately as a CEO you are a Storyteller – so find a compelling story you want to tell”

Find your purpose as a CEO and as an organisation and deliver it with Energy, Meaning and Impact

John: “You need to be optimistic but not just with boosterism”, “it can be hard to step out of a collaborative team/group to lead that same group”, “It’s not right for everyone”

Ben: “Being a CEO is about leading people – lead with humanity”

Thanks to Paul for his review of the event. Paul Barrow also hosts a brand-new content series, 5Q5M in partnership with The Marketing Society, with guests who are playing at the top of their game. From CEOs to scientists and actors to leading experts in marketing. Find out more here.

Paul Barrow was founder and CEO of the Media Research agency BLINC which was acquired by Trinity McQueen in 2019. In an earlier life, he created and co-owned The Alphabet Bar & Amber Bar in London’s Soho, he had a No. 1 single and made a guest appearance in the HBO series Succession. He now works as a sort of ‘Minister Without Portfolio’ for Trinity McQueen.



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