Today in Kickstart: Three steps to make CEO

Researchers build a “CEO Genome” to identify the traits it takes to make CEO. PLUS: Streaming music is making music boring

This is Kickstart—the daily morning management briefing on innovation, leadership, technology and the economy from the editors of Canadian BusinessSign up to get it directly to your inbox each weekday at 6 AM Eastern.

Good morning! Here’s what’s on our radar at the moment:

Three moves that make CEOs

Leadership consultants Elena Lytkina Botelho, Kim Rosenkoetter Powell and Nicole Wong studied the careers of 17,000 CEOs to build what they call the “CEO Genome”—a set of shared traits that help people land the highest leadership positions. Then they narrowed the field further, to CEOs who had reached the role faster than average. They found that these “sprinters” did indeed report similar stories, and three factors in particular jumped out, starting with at least one instance of making a lateral or even “backward” move that became a defining opportunity:

The path to CEO rarely runs in a straight line; sometimes you have to move backward or sideways in order to get ahead. More than 60% of sprinters took a smaller role at some point in their career. They may have started something new within their company (by launching a new product or division, for example), moved to a smaller company to take on a greater set of responsibilities, or started their own business. In each case, they used the opportunity to build something from the ground up and make an outsize impact.

Link: Harvard Business Review

Stop following the recipe

Erez Komarovsky spent years building up a chain of artisan bakeries in Israel, bucking conventional wisdom with his bold ingredients, small batch quality and his premium prices. Erez’s Bread eventually grew to 30 locations across the country, then jumped the Atlantic to New York. But then, in 2010, he abruptly sold his stake and moved to a little farm on the Lebanese border, where he opened a tiny catering company. This inspiring little profile is, in a way, a portrait of the entrepreneurial mindset: equal parts visionary and stubborn, building something new because he couldn’t imagine a world where it didn’t exist, no matter what everyone else said:

Here is how to live your life, according to Erez Komarovsky: Don’t take people’s advice. Ask yourself why you’re doing the same thing you were doing last year; ask if there is a very good reason for it, and then ask again. Become a “rhinoceros,” someone with such thick skin that when people come to you with their questions—how could you leave and how could you write that and how could you throw your own people under the bus like that—you could recognize that those questions are about their limitations, and not yours. Stop following recipes. Recipes don’t teach you anything. You can read them to understand what they’re trying to get at, but then forget what you read and go do it yourself.

Link: Saveur

The problem with streaming music

The music business was positively apocalyptic just a few years ago: CD sales had slumped, record stores were closing, and piracy was rampant. Then came the streaming services, offering all-you-can-listen music for a flat monthly fee. Thanks to that innovation, music revenues have steadily crept back up: Spotify boasts 140 million customers, of whom 70 million are paying monthly—a gusher of cash for artists and record labels. But there’s a problem with this new paradigm, explains musician Damon Krukowski. The mechanics of the streaming platforms are making popular music even more blockbuster-oriented than it used to be:

But while it’s clear that some are earning significant paychecks from streaming as a result—“Happy days are here again,” Billboardgushed last March, reporting the fastest growth for the industry in decades—most musicians are not. The basic reason is simple: According to the data trackers at BuzzAngle Music, more than 99 percent of audio streaming is of the top 10 percent most-streamed tracks. Which means less than 1 percent of streams account for all other music. That makes streaming more concentrated at the top than current album or song sales. Of course, the most popular releases have always dominated the music market, but it seems these new services increase that disparity rather than reduce it. The rising tide is lifting only certain boats.

Link: Pitchfork

Earnings reports today

Canadian publicly traded companies of note scheduled to report quarterly earnings today:

Sprott Physical Gold and Silver Trust (CEF), Champion Iron (CIA), Goodfellow Inc. (GDL), Neptune Technologies & Bioressources (NEPT), Richelieu Hardware (RCH), Resolute Forest Products (RFP), Rogers Sugar (RSI), Saputo Inc. (SAP), Velan Inc. (VLN)


  • Facebook lost daily active users in the U.S. and Canada for the first time ever last quarter. Not a big drop, mind you—from 185 million to 184 million. Revenue per user was up 35%, however, so save your tears. (Recode)
  • The U.S. has done a major overhaul of its tax code, and American companies are saving billions as a result. Here’s what they’re doing with their windfalls(NYT)
  • MIT professor Pattie Maes is making her grad students watch Netflix’s technological-dystopia anthology series Black Mirror to try to get them to think about the ethics of what they build(Outline)
  • Most of the late Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad’s US$58-billion fortune will not transfer to his heirs, owing to the company’s deliberately baroque ownership structure. (Bloomberg)
  • TimeFlip: Just turn this cute desktop dodecahedron to whatever activity you’re working on, and it tracks your time on a connected smartphone app.

Thanks for reading! Have a truly excellent day.