Our mission is simply to make the world a better place by helping develop more effective and enlightened leaders. 

Through the book and this website you will have the opportunity to better understand what a CEO does, the skills and experiences necessary to do the job, and how to build your own CEO career.  If you do decide to take the challenge you will be richly rewarded, even if you do not make it to the top. You can lead a life of consequence and contribution.

About the Author:


John Decker is an executive career consultant and partner at MDL Partners in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He has extensive experience advising senior executives on career transition challenges including those involving start-ups and business acquisitions. He was formerly a senior human resources executive with a focus on management and executive development, succession planning, and executive recruiting. He has worked with executives in virtually every industry and functional specialty and has presented on career management issues to many MBA alumni associations, including Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as to multiple professional associations and executive job search groups. Decker holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s degree in industrial administration from Union College. 


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Start by taking the CEO test and discover your CEO score. You have an IQ and an EQ which you may be able to change a little over your lifetime. You can, however, make major career enhancing changes to your CEO score and build your personal roadmap to the top.



When you get an offer,the next step after expressing great enthusiasm for the opportunity, is to ask clarifying questions to understand the real value of the offer--what is the employee contribution to medical insurance (if any)?, what is the company contribution to 401K or supplemental retirement?, what has been historically and is prospectively been budgeted for bonuses?

   Then develop your negotiating grid.  It may have as few as five components:


  • Base salary, including provisions for discretionary or fixed increases.
  • Annual bonus provisions including discretionary, performance based or fixed, based on company-wide or individual performance metrics, or combinations based on the company’s need for flexibility balanced by your need for certainty. (At the CEO and top five officer compensation level, IRC Section 162(m) regarding deductibility may apply.)
  • Signing bonus, ostensibly to cover loss of vesting options, bonus, longevity and other benefits from your prior employer.  It may also be negotiated to cover lower initial first year salary, increased risk, or other financial shortfalls.  (Robert A. Adelson, “Negotiating Your Employment Contract:  Getting What You Deserve” 2011,www.refresher.com/araacontract.html)
  • Equity awards including stock options, stock appreciation rights, restricted stock, restricted stock units, performance awards, etc., all structured to avoid unpleasant tax surprises.
  • Perks and employee benefit plans--personal use of company car or car allowance, or airplane, country club/ association dues, financial planning/tax advice, special life or medical insurance, supplemental retirement, etc. (The above list from “Negotiating Executive Employment Agreements:  Compensation and Benefits, Practical Law Journal, December 2011/January 2012, Pg.30-35) 

Other terms might include (ibid, Adelson)

  • Relocation assistance, including “grossing up” payments for taxable relocation expenses, and length of temporary living arrangements.
  • Non-compete and non-disclosure agreements around taking a job with a direct competitor, soliciting customers or prospects, or raiding employees, all which you should attempt to match in duration to the severance agreement.
  • Termination, clearly defining with and without cause and
  • Reasonable severance particularly around change of control with accelerated vesting provisions, inclusion of bonuses and incentive payments, etc., the “golden parachute” vs. the golden handcuffs.
  • “Good Vibrations”, whether the negotiations on both sides are respectful and flexible. 



According to Thomas Friel, retired chairman and CEO of Heidreck & Struggles Intl.Inc, the better you understand industry standards, company needs and metrics, and the Board’s concern with “optics”, perceptions in the marketplace, with shareholders and employees, especially with Dodd Frank, the more effective you will be.  (Thomas J. Friel, Negotiating CEO Compensation--Some Do’s and Don’t’s from 3 Decades on the Firing Line.      


 Once you have your grid, ask the company to review their offer in areas you consider too low, citing your research, and to come back with improved terms. Simply say “could you go back and sharpen your pencil on the offer?”  After they have done that, creating a new, higher floor, make your counter proposal. Thanks very much, I was thinking more along the lines of $XXX. Cite where possible your efforts to align your numbers and terms with their business objectives, then settle somewhere in the middle.

Job Offer Decision Matrix



“No matter how good you think you are, no matter how prepared you are, you need a coach. Every world class athlete has a coach. Federer and Spieth are not above asking for assistance to be better at what they do. CEO’s are no different. It is a lonely tough job. Think of John’s book as a personal coach. Embrace it!” Startup founder and CEO

“Being a client of John Decker for a number of years, I find his advice to be spot on.  Not doing what he recommends is like buying a dog and then barking yourself.” Company chairman

“I have worked with and advised a large number of CEOs and boards of major American corporations.  I believe this book captures the skills these top performing CEOs actually demonstrate and provides a clear roadmap for building them on the way to the top.”  Company CEO, Former Vice Chairman, Major consulting firm

“This is an important read for any future or newly appointed CEO who wishes to benefit from the author’s years of coaching and counseling CEO’s. The book provides a clear picture of the many challenges a CEO faces in today’s business environment and offers relevant, cogent advice on how to make tenure at the top a success.” Former corporate president and chairman

“John Decker’s insights are an express elevator to the top, for aspiring CEO’s” Executive Chairman

“I have been using the concepts presented in this book to successfully accelerate the careers of high potential individuals.  This is an important and very insightful book, and one you can personally use to accelerate your own development.  It should be required reading for anyone planning their professional business career.”  Business Unit President, Fidelity Investments