What I think separates the Top CEOs from the rest…

LS International

Pablo Isla and Bernard Arnault are on HBR’s 2017 list of “Top 100 CEOs”. HBR follows a rigorous ranking process that takes into account the CEO’s performance on environmental, social and governance criteria as well- which shows that financial performance, while necessary, is no longer a sufficient condition in evaluating CEOs.

This got me thinking about who else from amongst the current set of CEOs might stand out as “inspirational” for me, and how I might pick them. Without getting too hung up on the nitty gritty of specific criteria or methodology, I concluded that I ought to use three indicators to develop my own list of high-performing CEOs. I chose Innovation, Culture Change and Growth. I hasten to add that these are loosely defined terms and my evaluation does not follow a rigorous, scientific, or quantitatively-driven process!

Let me first define the three criteria in my own way. “Innovation” refers to the extent to which the CEO has visibly been able to drive the innovation agenda in his/her company and what results this has delivered. “Culture change” is a bit more amorphous; I use this term to include actions that have enabled drive change across the organization. The change could be a simple tweak in policy that empowers employees to take greater initiative or something more fundamental, such as metrics to measure carbon footprint and work towards specific reduction milestones- in turn making everyone conscious about energy, emissions, water consumption etc. I view “growth” as steady improvement in revenue and profits as well as expansion in footprint (number of stores, locations) or even broadening of product/service portfolio. Please keep in mind that I viewed each of these three criteria in the context of the industry and company.

On the basis of publicly available information, I picked five CEOs. The table below lists them and summarizes why. This list is by no means comprehensive, and I would be delighted to hear from you regarding who else ought to be in this list.