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Harvard Business Review Publishes List of the 100 Best CEOs in the World
[January 02, 2013]

Harvard Business Review Publishes List of the 100 Best CEOs in the World

BOSTON --(Business Wire)--

Harvard Business Review has published an article ranking the top 100 CEOs in the world. The article, "The Best-Performing CEOs in the World," which appears in the January-February issue of the magazine, offers the only ranking of global CEOs' performance over their entire tenure.

Harvard Business Review, January/February 2013 (Photo: Business Wire)

Harvard Business Review, January/February 2013 (Photo: Business Wire)

The list, compiled by Morten T. Hansen, Herminia Ibarra, and Urs Peyer all of INSEAD, is based on rigorous analysis of more than 3,000 CEOs around the world and incorporates three metrics: industry-adjusted shareholder returns, country-adjusted shareholder returns, and increase in market capitalization over each CEO's tenure.

"The knock on most business leaders is that they focus on quarterly earnings at the expense of longer-term performance," said Hansen, Professor in Entrepreneurship at INSEAD and also at the University of California, Berkeley. "We wanted to shine a spotlight on CEOs worldwide who had created long-term value for their companies."

"Unlike other rankings that are based on popularity or reputation, this list is based solely on hard data and evaluates which chief executives delivered the most solid results over the long term," said Adi Ignatius, Harvard Business Review Editor-in-Chief.

Among the authors' findings:

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is the world's number one living CEO, with only the late Steve Jobs (News - Alert) holding a better record. Under Bezos' leadership, Amazon delivered industry-adjusted shareholder rturns of 12,266% and saw its value increase by $111 billion.
  • Only three Chinese companies' CEOs made the top 100, though 17% of all the executives studied were from China. The highest ranking Chinese CEO on the list is Li Jiaxiang, former CEO of Air China.
  • The highest-ranked woman on the list is HP CEO Meg Whitman, whose performance as the CEO of eBay (News - Alert) from 1998 to 2008 earned her the #9 spot. Whitman is only one of two women who made the top 100, the other being Dong Mingzhu, CEO of China's Gree Electric Appliances.
  • Despite holding six of the top 10 slots, U.S. CEOs performed on average lower than their Latin American, Indian, and British counterparts.
  • Chief executives from emerging markets earned four of the top 10 slots: Yun Jong-Yong, former CEO of Samsung (News - Alert) Electronics at #3, Roger Agnelli, formerly of Brazilian mining company Vale at #4, Chung Mong-Koo of Hyundai at #6, and Y.C. Deveshwar of Indian consumer goods company ITC at #7.
  • Overall, insiders-CEOs promoted from within-did better than outsiders. When looking at the entire group of CEOs studied, insiders' average rank was 154 places higher than outsiders', with insiders getting better results in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Latin America. The authors found no difference between insiders and outsiders in continental Europe, China, and India.
  • The top 100 CEOs from the ranking performed exceptionally well: On average they delivered a total shareholder return of 1,385% during their tenures and increased their firms' market value by $40.2 billion.

The CEO Scorecard was first introduced three years ago in Harvard Business Review. This year's ranking has been expanded along two important dimensions: making the group of CEOs studied truly global-the authors drew from a pool of 3,143 CEOs in 37 countries-and examining which CEOs and companies were able to do well not only financially but also in terms of corporate social and environmental performance.

While no correlation between financial results and social responsibility was found, numerous examples of high-performing CEOs "doing well and doing good" emerged, including Franck Riboud of Danone and Alessandro Carlucci of Natura, who both have confronted the key social or environmental issue in their industry (in Danone's case, obesity and unhealthful food consumption; in Natura's, deforestation and poverty). Other role models from firms rated highly for social responsibility included the CEOs of Adidas, Inditex, Hermès International, and Eaton (News - Alert), who moved into the top 15% of financial performers in this year's study.

"These trendsetting CEOs not only reject the idea that financial market demands are more important than stakeholders' needs but also demonstrate that companies can excel at meeting both," said Ibarra, the Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning, Professor of Organizational Behavior, and Area Chair for the Organizational Behavior Department at INSEAD.

To see an interactive version of the Top 100 list and browse it by CEO ranking, location, and demographics, visit or download the Harvard Business Review iPad app.

About Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Review is the leading destination for smart management thinking. Through its flagship magazine, 11 international licensed editions, books from Harvard Business Review Press, and digital content and tools published on, Harvard Business Review provides professionals around the world with rigorous insights and best practices to lead themselves and their organizations more effectively and to make a positive impact.

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