4 Keys To Becoming Your Company’s Next CEO

Below is an article published in Forbes on Carter’s new Book (by Ashley Stahl).  Enjoy!

It was a brisk LA morning as I hopped on the phone with Carter Cast, former Walmart.com CEO, to discuss his new book that’s coming out, The Right (And Wrong) Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made And Unmade.

The theme of our conversation was failure, and the questions that surround it:

What causes failure?

Why does it happen?

…And how do we bounce back from it?

It can be hard to remember that failing doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. In fact, success lives around the corner from failure! And most entrepreneurs know this all too well.

Overall, our conversation was full of gems, and served as a big reminder: you are not your circumstances.

Here are four keys to move from employee to CEO, thanks to Carter Cast:

1. Understand your dark side.

In a world that’s plagued with messages about “staying positive,” we’re almost encouraged to ignore the darkness that’s inevitably ingrained in our personalities.

After all, no one is all sunshine.

Cast warns that one of the biggest vulnerabilities potential leaders face is the failure to seek out areas within themselves where they must grow in order to efficiently adapt to people and situations.

The CEO Genome, a 10-year study that discovered essential behaviors shared by top CEOs, revealed that people who excel at adapting to rapid change are 6.7 times more likely to succeed.

We all have behaviors that pop up when the going gets tough—you may tend to rebel, lash out, freeze, or even bail on responsibilities.

And these destructive tendencies have the potential to seriously damage a career when they go unseen.

Cast didn’t realize he had an anti-authority gene himself until he was 34-years-old. At the time, he struggled with a particularly heavy-handed boss. His own urge to rebel got him kicked off his team, which temporarily derailed his career. Needless to say, Cast had to come to terms with his own personality quirk so he could avoid future failures.

2. Know your motives.

Far too often, we’re so focused on “finding our passion” or “figuring out who we are” that we fail to connect to what motivates us–a key factor to unlocking your best career path.

Cast listed five indicators for motives: the desire for autonomy, achievement, purpose, relational closeness and power; and, he explained that people derail in the wrong work context.

You could be driven by purpose, but if you can’t connect with the mission of your company, that purpose is lost. Or maybe you strive to achieve. If you’re stuck at a job with no room for growth, you’ll never reach that feeling of accomplishment.

Cast himself is driven by autonomy, so this affirmed that being the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company didn’t make sense for him. Once he determined his own key motive, he pursued his passion for writing and teaching.

What motivates you?

3. Find what gives you energy.

Cast suggests paying attention to where you get energy from every day. Take note of the emails you open first in the morning, or what activities you naturally gravitate towards when you have free time. And start journaling your discoveries so that you can refer back to them as a guide for where you get your joy.

Cast recommends color coding the journal– happy tasks throughout the day are green, and neutral or indifferent ones are yellow. And of course, the moments that suck the soul out of you are CODE RED.

After a few weeks of this, flip through your journal. Notice the color patterns. Themes will pop up, and they’re not only work-based themes—they’re your life motifs.

Eventually, you’ll begin to recognize trends that help you determine what fuels you the most. As a result, you’ll have the tools you need to land a job where day-to-day tasks sport minimal “code red” moments.

4. Know how to get present.

I asked Carter Cast what big factor defines a good leader and he emphasized the “be here now” attitude.

Show your attentiveness through good eye contact and listening skills. Adopt a mindful presence, which allows you to truly BE with the people around you.

I’ve heard this same piece of wisdom in interview with other CEOs, so presence must be deeply underrated.

You should seek to understand those around you before being understood.

Successful leaders master this level of listening and authenticity.

Bring your full attention to the table and people will notice. They’ll naturally translate your active presence into the ability to lead.

As I wrapped up my conversation with Cast, his final words sat with me all day: good leaders tap into the dormant aspiration in others and present it as their own mission.

What a powerful gift.


Ashley Stahl coaches job seekers to find their purpose and land more job offers. She also runs CAKE Publishing, a ghostwriting house that helps influencers create content.

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