Are CEOs Different? Characteristics of Top Managers

Steven N. Kaplan, Morten Sørensen

Research output: Working paperResearch


We use a data set of over 2,600 executive assessments to study thirty individual characteristics of candidates for top executive positions – CEO, CFO, COO and others. Candidate characteristics can be classified by four primary factors: general ability, execution skills, charisma and strategic skills. CEO candidates tend to score higher on all four of these factors; CFO candidates score lower. Hired candidates score higher than all assessed candidates on interpersonal skills (for each job category) suggesting that such skills are important in the selection process. Scores on the four factors also predict future career progression. Non-CEO candidates who score higher on the four factors are subsequently more likely to become CEOs. The patterns are qualitatively similar for public, private equity and venture capital owned companies. We do not find economically large differences in the four factors for men and women. Women, however, are ultimately less likely to become CEOs holding the four factors constant.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherColumbia Business School
Number of pages50
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
SeriesColumbia Business School Research Papers Series


  • Managerial characteristics
  • Hiring decisions
  • Corporate governance
  • CEOs
  • CFOs
  • COOs

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