How 10X CEOs Perform Differently

10X CEO is the accelerated learning platform designed to help high-performing, venture-backed CEOs build valuable, enduring companies. Our primary premise is that elevated CEO skill is the most important predictor for building a valuable long-term business.

Some things we’ve learned about CEO skill:
• Six abilities comprise CEO skill (three personal and three business).
• These abilities are visible and quantifiable. They can usually be practiced and elevated…if the CEO trains like an athlete.
• The most significant business challenges are really CEO skill challenges.
• Required business abilities modify and expand as the company grows in scale and complexity.
• Going from an “8” to a “9” in CEO skill compounds the ultimate value of the business.
• Most CEOs are too busy working “in the business” to think much about their own skill and how it affects the future value of their business.

10X CEO Qualifications
• Must be nominated by a top-tier venture firm or current member of 10XCEO.
• Must lead a company with $10-$500 million in annual revenue with rapid growth rates.
• Must demonstrate the skill, desire, focus, and courage to function at a 10X level.

Who is in 10X CEO?
• 10 of our CEOs are in the 2022 “Cloud 100”, including 7 of the top 40 companies. A complete list is at 10X CEO.
• We currently have 92 CEOs in 13 cohorts. We have only 12 available openings and plan to cap the program for the foreseeable future when these openings are filled.
• We group our cohorts primarily by 3 revenue tiers (1) +$100 million (2) $30-$100 million
(3) $10 – $30 million.
• Our CEOs work in cohorts that are built carefully based on the company size and CEO experience.

The Four Compounding Levers of 10X CEO
• Working with closely matched peers of high-performing CEOs on their own real-time business priorities.
• Using a framework that focuses each CEO on their most important real-time priorities that makes their effectiveness visible and improvement possible.
• Having an experienced CEO Coach who customizes the program for each individual 10X CEO.
• Utilizing the combined intelligence of the 10X CEO network through benchmarking and best practice sharing.

How do 10X CEOs Perform Differently?

The ability to learn at an accelerated rate is one of the key abilities that 10X CEOs assess and expand. Let’s look at the differences between 10X CEOs and most venture-backed CEOs.

The CEO Majority 10X CEOs
CEO Job Description 1. Raising the value of my company consistent basis.
2. Beating the plan.
1. Creating highly desirable business/profit models.
2. Building great processes for sales and customer delight.
3. Creating a culture of high-performing individuals and teams.
Stated Learning Goals My company and team look to me for the answers. Training is for people earlier in their career. Laser focus on the top three priorities that will change the trajectory of the business…and learn everything about them. I want to be world-class and I intend to train like a pro athlete.
CEO Skill – Weapons of Choice 1. Personal experience, school of hard knocks.
2. Feedback – great job, you beat the plan or – lousy job, you need to do better next time.
3. Decisions & Goals – you work it out with your team.
4. Best Practices – My own experience, consultants if I need them, maybe asking advice from CEO friends.
1. Real benchmarking – written documents are shared and compared with a “very smart network.” Cumulative learning.
2. Feedback – Skill is evaluated by an outsider and you have a practice plan. Your progress is compared with CEO peers.
3. Decisions & Goals – you write everything down and share it inside and outside the company, it becomes a learning document.
4. “Plug and play” best practices that have been tested in your “smart people” network.

Highly accelerated learning for CEOs has the following elements:

1. The learning must involve a cycle of feedback (especially when benchmarked with CEO peers) practice and more feedback. The practice should mostly (but not always) be on the CEO’s own decisions, problems, and opportunities.

2. Learning must be written so that it can be shared, studied, and improved.

3. The CEO develops and uses a “smart people” network. It can be 5 or 50. If the network is smart and is used effectively, it will almost always have better answers than the CEO’s own personal experience. When done right, the collective intelligence of the network grows and its value increases over time.

4. Learning experiences are multiplied by studying outside the CEO’s normal circle. Instead of just looking at their own industry business/profit model, they study models from other industries. Instead of evaluating just their own VP sales, they might compare with 10 others from their “smart people” network.

5. Learning opportunities, methods, and best practices are shared and cascaded throughout the CEO’s company. This creates a geometric effect on the collective intelligence of the entire organization.

10X CEO Program

Learn more about the 10X CEO® program, including how accelerated learning is vital to a CEO’s success.

This PDF explores the 10X CEO® program in detail, including an overview of the 10X CEO® curve, portfolio companies, qualifications for the program, program findings, and expected outcomes.

Leading Through Crisis

COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it, and a CEO’s response to leading through crisis has never been more important. As we face a New Normal, accelerate your business even in the midst of this disruption.

Download the 10X CEO® PDF here.

The 15 Essential Books for CEOs

The major constraint in a CEO’s skill development is their speed in recognizing patterns and adopting successful models. It’s often possible to shortcut this process by reading the right book. Many 10X CEO®s have achieved significant personal breakthroughs because they read the right book at the right time.

But there are too many books and not enough time. Some of the famous bestselling business books make for interesting stories, but the most valuable books are the ones that deal with a critical area of a business and provide a “best practice” framework that a CEO can adopt, and often spread throughout his or her organization.

CEO Effectiveness

The Goal – Eliyahu Goldratt (1984) – This very quirky (and charmingly/annoyingly dated) book set in a manufacturing plant contains the single most important CEO insight I’ve seen, which is to focus your energy on identifying and unlocking the primary constraint of the business. Any problem that is not connected to the primary constraint, while it may feel good to solve, doesn’t do anything to move the business forward. You can’t be a 10X CEO® until you grasp and live by this insight.

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life & Work – Chip and Dan Heath (2013) – The track record for executive decisions is regrettably bad.  Or instance, 80% of acquisitions don’t make money.   How can this be?  It turns out that most decisions, even multi-million dollar ones, don’t use a process that prevents bad decisions.  This book illustrates a clear, easy to follow framework that helps CEOs and executives make better decisions in business and in life.

Peak – Chip Conley (2007) – This book may be the best of all in describing the CEO’s overall view. It provides a useful and clear framework for how a CEO can add value to customers, employees, and owners. This book is not very well known but is much more useful to entrepreneurs than the best sellers (Good to Great, The Hard Thing about Hard Things, etc.).

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Connected World – Cal Newport (2016) – This book identifies two types of work: “deep work”, which is focused on producing a focused, valuable outcome and “shallow work”, which are the routine meetings, email, and Slack threads that dominate CEO life.  Most CEOs spend 80% (or more) of their time in “shallow work”.  Spending 50% or more of your time on “deep work” on the right priorities is the most certain path to multiplying your effectiveness.

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time – Jeff Sutherland (2014) – How to apply Scrum to executive functions.  “Deep Work” describes what to do for CEOs, this book describes the how.  We now have 10X companies applying Scrum to non-IT functions, and they’ve dramatically increased throughput, quality and speed as a result.

Customers & Markets

Monetizing Innovation – How Smart Companies Design the Product Around the Price – Ramanujam and Tacke (2016) – Understand your customer’s “willingness to pay” before you write a single line of code.  80% of product/engineering efforts are wasted.  Applying this framework will ensure your product/engineering efforts will actually pay off.  Also…”Tuned In: Uncover the Extraordinary Opportunities that Lead to Business Breakthroughs” by Stull, Myers, & Scott (2008) is a sound clear process for asking customers the right questions.

Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard – Chip and Dan Heath (2010) – People resist change.  It’s risky and the outcome is uncertain.  But innovation depends on large groups of people stepping into the unknown in search of a new and better way.  This book presents a workable framework for undertaking new but difficult possibilities.

Answering The Ultimate Question – How Net Promoter Can Transform Your Business – Richard Owen and Laura Brooks (2008) – A number of 10X companies use Net Promoter Score (NPS) to give a true reading for their level of customer delight.  This book gives a detailed model of how to actually glean the right information from NPS and how to use it to increase both delight and increased revenue from existing customers.

The Challenger Sale – Taking Control of the Customer Conversation – Dixon & Adamson (2011) – The most important book on selling ever written for complex enterprise sales.   Any CEO that understands and masters these techniques will almost certainly win the battle, especially in highly competitive environments.

Seizing the White Space – Business Model Innovation for Growth and Renewal – Mark W. Johnson (2010) – This is book is similar to “Blue Ocean Strategy” but is a little more practical.  Its concept of “job to be done” is a very specific approach to creating highly valued offerings.  The book’s framework is very clear and useful.

Building a High Performance Culture

Who: The “A” Method for Hiring – Geoff Smart & Randy Street (2008) – This book is the successor to “Top Grading” and is more broad, practical, and simpler to implement.  It breaks down the hiring process to 4 key steps: (1) Source (2) Scorecard (3) Select (4) Sell.  Any company that correctly implements these concepts will have a leg up in attracting and selecting the highest quality talent.

Boundaries for Leaders – Why Some People Get Results and Others Don’t – Dr. Henry Cloud (2013) – “There are always five “right” plans.  There are a lot of ways to get there.  The real problem is getting the people to do what it takes to make the plan work.  That is where you win or lose”.  That quote is the essence of the book.  Why do some groups of people get things done and others don’t.  This book is part philosophy and part framework.  But it will force you to see your CEO leadership style in a different light and give you the tools to improve it.

Leadership and Self-Deception – The Arbinger Institute (2010) – A profound book that has the power to really change the talent environment in your business and also deepen your personal relationships. In every personal interaction you have the choice to view the other person as a person…or as on object (means to an end). This book explains the powerful ramifications of that choice.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni (2002) – This is one of the best “leadership in a box” book I’ve read. Understanding and practicing these concepts will immediately improve how you lead teams. It’s very easy to read and understand so it can be passed throughout the company as “the way we do things around here”. Interestingly, the other Lencioni books have great titles but are not as valuable.

Rhythm: How to Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate Growth – Patrick Thean (2014) – There are very few books about how companies actually execute (or not).  This book has improved the execution capability of all of our Member CEOs that have applied it.  It’s logical, clear, and it works.  Also the 4 Disciplines of Execution by McChesney, Covey, and Huling is a much better goal system than OKRs.  The first 25% of the book is all you need.


These books incorporate some of the most valuable knowledge that exists about being a high growth CEO.  If you understand and apply the concepts in these books, you will have an unfair advantage over the 99.9% of CEOs who are trying to figure these things out on their own.