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How to Prove Yourself as CEO on Day 1

New and incoming chief executives must win over directors and activist shareholders from the start.
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Illustration: César Pelizer for Bloomberg Businessweek

Debra Weiser knew she had to quickly show her leadership strengths when she was hired as vice president and head of excess casualty at Everest Insurance Co. 20 months ago. While getting to know her staff and assessing their talents, she took one-on-one meetings with her boss and top executives in finance, law, and other departments, whose counsel she knew she’d need. And she didn’t hesitate when she was asked early on to discuss her five-year plan at a meeting, even after learning she had to prepare her own PowerPoint deck, a task she’d relied on support staff to do at her prior job at a larger insurer.

“Business moves so much faster today. You have to throw yourself into the work and learn very quickly who’s who, who does what, and how your company operates,” Weiser says. “Adaptability to new cultures and ways of doing things are some of the keys to success.”