Are CEOs Different? Characteristics of Top Managers

Steven N. Kaplan, Morten Sørensen

Research output: Working paperResearch


We use a dataset of over 2,600 executive assessments to study thirty individual characteristics ofcandidates for top executive positions – CEO, CFO, COO and others. We classify the thirtycandidate characteristics with four primary factors: general ability, execution vs. interpersonal,charisma vs. analytic, and strategic vs. managerial. CEO candidates tend to score higher on thesefactors; CFO candidates score lower. Conditional on being a candidate, executives with greaterinterpersonal skills are more likely to be hired, suggesting that such skills are important in theselection process. Scores on the four factors also predict future career progression. Non-CEOcandidates 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 ownedcompanies. We do not find economically large differences in the four factors for men andwomen. Women, however, are subsequently less likely to become CEOs, holding the four factorsconstant.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge, MA
PublisherNational Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Number of pages53
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017
SeriesNational Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper Series

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