The CEO Program: Leading with Purpose & Acquiring the Edge

The CEO Program: Leading with Purpose & Acquiring the Edge

CEO turnover is increasing in the post-pandemic era as “the bar is being raised for CEO performance” (Globe & Mail). Despite that fact that 40% of CEOs fail within the first 18 months, fewer than a third of companies have an emergency succession plan in place. While 70% of C-level leaders are “seriously considering” quitting for personal reasons (Deloitte), boards are now asking whether they have “the right skills” for current marketplace demands – yet another reason why the pace of executive transitions is the highest since 2008.

While a title connotes authority, that alone is not a license to lead. We listen to those in authority because we’re required to do so but what compels followership is consistent, credible and competent performance. In an incredibly volatile, uncertain and unpredictable world, competence-based leadership is increasingly fragile, under intense scrutiny and often called into question. New challenges and new realities demand new competencies – especially those that place a higher premium on the ability to “connect” with followers, motivate loyalty and inspire their confidence to go the extra mile.

In too many organizations today, there is a disconnect between what leaders say and what they actually do. People care greatly about things like consistency, integrity and fairness. Employees don’t listen to every word leaders say, but they watch their every behavior closely and constantly judge whether they walk the talk. Leading with purpose gives followers a sense of meaning in their work. Leading in the exponential  age requires the ability to prick the expanding bubble of ignorance, recognize today’s career derailers, select the right talent, respond courageously to high-impact surprises, devise strategies that both inform and inspire, foster an adaptive culture of resilience and create a business model that can compete for the future.

This proven, one-of-a-kind, mini “executive MBA” program is updated every year to reflect the latest pressures and demands on C-suite executives. It has a singular objective – to provide a more powerful lens to define (or refine) your leadership identity and to better assess those who are selected to build on your legacy. It’s not a philosophical discussion about what leadership is; rather it’s about what you need to know to get better at leading others to greatness. Once offered as an intensive four-day residential program, it is now available online for the benefit of a wider geographical audience. It remains highly interactive, relevant and challenging.

A provocative learning experience, the program answers the critical questions every leader must confront: Do I possess the emotional and mental qualities, interpersonal skills, street-smart insights, decision-making savvy and executive presence to lead? Can I handle the dynamic forces that are and will impact my business going forward: changing stakeholder expectations, decaying business paradigms, archaic management practices, weak strategies, and how to tackle the unanticipated but formidable risks and “black swan” events that appear largely beyond my control? Can I deal effectively with ethical dilemmas, manage those who are actually smarter than me, audit and design a healthy organization focused on adaptability, and decide when “the current game” needs to be rethought?

The program takes cognizance of the latest research on executive concerns and challenges. It consists of seven three-hour sessions spread over three weeks, includes two pre-course workbooks, a 100+ page manual of supplemental readings, instructive cases to hone decision-making skills, and numerous diagnostic instruments. Networking and executive performance coaching opportunities are provided for those who may want them. The depth, breadth and sharing of participant experiences is one of the primary benefits. The program has a limited enrollment and is offered once a year – don’t miss your opportunity.


The best promotion is knowing what those who’ve attended this unique executive development program have to say about their experience. Here (with titles noted) is their first-hand account:

  • Unlike any other leadership program I’ve ever taken. The knowledge, insights and tips I gained over three days is far superior to the six months of executive coaching I’ve received. I was engaged 100% of the time – not many speakers can do that. This course has changed my life. – CEO
  • My biggest (and my favourite) take-aways were what I learned about myself. – CEO
  • You challenged my paradigms and gave me more food for thought on my road to becoming the best leader I can be. Thank you for sharing your lifetime of work and wisdom! – CFO
  • Forced me to reconsider what a leader is and should be. The volume of material is overwhelming. – Vice President
  • Made me ask “the why?” of leadership and gave me an environment to be vulnerable. Thank you for pushing me. – President
  • The brilliant personalized and practical views of Jim Murray, sprinkled with numerous real life examples, made it both measurable and convincing. – CFO
  • This was my second advanced program from you and I again walked away with this “Yes, I can” feeling. You helped me to dissolve the clouds of self-doubt. – COO
  • Solid, practical insights that opened my eyes to the skills I need to acquire – such as the need to rethink the values of my senior management team. – Director 
  • You forced me to re-evaluate my goals and aspirations. But you also gave me a guide and a starting point. Exceeded my expectations. – General Manager
  • Helped me understand what I need to work on to ensure I am a strong leader for the rest of my life. I brought up my “big issue” and the feedback was invaluable. – Acting CEO
  • The moral compass exercise gave me a needed “smack on the side of the head” and helped me confirm it’s time to formalize my role or move on. Sure made me think. Overall, great! – CFO
  • Gave me the tools I need for self-promotion, executive alignment, risk management and diagnosing organizational health to name just a few.  V.P., Finance
  • I was reminded to humble myself to think more about how people will repeat what I say or do. I am now more aware of what types of things can derail me. – Controller
  • I came wanting to know how to select my successor. I now know what to do. – CEO
  • Made me reflect about myself as a person and a leader. I’ve heard this before but never in a more meaningful manner. You held my interest for the full three days. – President
  • Gave me a better idea as to whether and why I want to pursue CEOdom. – Director
  • The course lit a fire for me – let me see how I stack up against my peers.  – CFO
  • The way you present the material makes me think. Thank you for inspiring me. – COO
  • Overwhelming!! The best insights I have received as to what I don’t know and how I need to change my way of thinking, doing and acting if I want to succeed. – District Manager
  • I came here looking for a ‘kick in the ass.’ Now I have the tools to give myself one. This “mini-MBA” has the street smarts that just can’t be taught in a regular school. – Partner
  • Your “agent provocateur” style is the right dosage for the hardwired brains of accountants. – CFO
  • You are a fantastic story teller – so many experiences we can learn from. – Executive VP
  • The interaction and debate was great. And it was a safe place to learn. – CFO
  • The challenges you framed, your stories and the thought-provoking exchanges helped me confirm my commitment to becoming CEO. – VP
  • Enabled me to meet a new group of professionals from whom I can learn and network. – CEO
  • I’ve had my eyes opened to the realities and possibilities of the CEO position. You raised my awareness of what I now need to do. – COO
  • Your eloquence, experience and insights showed me a living example of how to challenge the status quo as well as myself. – Controller
  • Thank you for shining the light into the dark corners, and around some blind ones, on the role of the CEO. You helped me see the path forward more clearly. – CFO
  • Your experience and directness has ignited a passion in me to utilize the tools and grow strategically. You’ve encouraged me to take more risks and reach. – Ass’t VP Finance
  • A remarkable and amazing four days! I really enjoyed it. – VP, Finance


The following is a top-line outline of the sessions and topics to be addressed in 2024:

The Opportunity and Realities of CEOdom
❏  The premise, objectives, caveats and roles
❏  Critical skills and stylistic nuances of leadership
❏  Lesson #1: Avoid the fatal flaws or get the axe
❏  How to survive and thrive in the zone of complexity
❏  Finding, defining and shaping your leadership identity
❏  Leader styles vs. the competencies to deliver on them
❏  The difference between ‘the good’ and ‘the best’
❏  The C-suite skills that matter more than others today
❏  The gritty truths and diseases of being the top dog

The Challenges of Leadership in the C-suite
❏  The elusive, fragile, essential imperative of leading
❏  Smarts that separate leaders from the pretenders
❏  Achieving clarity, focus and results: The CEO Mantra
❏  Organizational DNA: Manipulating the critical genes
❏  Rethinking strategy: Realities and faulty assumptions
❏  If you’re new: What to do from day one to day 100
❏  Diagnosing the health and savvy of your enterprise
❏  The new post-Covid social contract with employees
❏  Assessing the key players on your executive team

The Elements of Extraordinary Leadership
❏  The CEO Entrance Exam: Questions you must answer
❏  Making good choices: Time, priority and energy audits
❏  Self-assessment: Do you have what it will take?
❏  Mapping your career advancement in broad strokes
❏  Setting your compass: The non-negotiable rules
❏  How to get the best advice and build reliable networks
❏  Executive presence, self-promotion and brand building
❏  Power and politics in the C-Suite: How to play the game
❏  Identity: Reconciling the five paradoxes of leadership
❏  Sustaining the drive: Fueling motivation and productivity

Overcoming the Obstacles to Higher Performance
❏  Building a cohesive and focused executive team
❏  Measuring high performance at the executive level
❏  Inner circles, EAs or a CoS?: How to choose them
❏  Vision, purpose, values and rules: Misguided tools
❏  Operationalizing a paradigm shift in your culture
❏  Leading knowledge workers who are smarter than you
❏  Developing a symbiotic relationship with your board
❏  What the board needs to know and do about risk
❏  The relationship between structure and performance

The CEO as Chief Decision Maker
❏  The three decision domains that make or break you
❏  The CEO effect: Why good leaders deserve their pay
❏  The bubble of ignorance: What, why and how to escape it
❏  The three fatal flaws that undermine decision effectiveness
❏  Improving decision outcomes: Eight tools and techniques
❏  Overcoming the echo chamber: Changing the D-M culture
❏  Finding the best experts: The traps you need to avoid
❏  Enriching the decision process: Knowing when you’re right
❏  Risk intelligence: Awareness, analysis, tolerance and framing
❏  Why successful companies fail: Might yours be next?
❏  Nurturing beneficial and credible two-way feedback

Fostering Innovation and Building Resilience
❏  Leading in a crisis: Dos, don’t’s and prevention tactics
❏  From the trenches: Jim’s crisis intervention playbook
❏  The lessons of COVID: What have leaders learned?
❏  Forecasting high-impact surprises, unknowns and luck
❏  The elements and architecture of a smart enterprise
❏  Fostering workforce innovation: Problems and solutions
❏  Execution: Ingredients, constraints and required skills
❏  Making innovation a competency rather than a slogan
❏  Why Canadian companies are so poor at innovation
❏  Intelligent failure: A paradigm for symbiotic growth
❏  Business model transformation: Different approaches
❏  Strategies for growing your business in a VUCA world
❏  Caveat emptor: Partnerships, strategic alliances and IPOs
❏  Due diligence: The upsides and the downsides of scaling

The Ultimate Responsibilities of Leadership
❏  Navigating ethical dilemmas: The tricky slippery slope
❏  Which CEOs are more likely to commit fraud?
❏  Embracing the highest calling of exemplary leadership
❏  High potentials: How to identify and develop them
❏  How and when to exit the enterprise stage left
❏  Succession planning: How to find your next CEO
❏  Overcoming the challenges internal candidates face
❏  Acquiring the mindset: Destinations worth considering
❏  What you can’t be taught but must learn for yourself
❏  Dr. Jim’s Top 10 List: What Smart Leaders need to know
❏  Leading with purpose: The six unavoidable questions
❏  Going forward: Achieving your destiny as a great CEO

* To ensure currency and inclusion of the latest research, the “final” curriculum is outlined in detail in the first Pre-course Workbook sent to the participants.