Are CEOs Different? Characteristics of Top Managers

Steven N. Kaplan, Morten Sørensen

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


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
Publication date2016
Number of pages50
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventThe 14th International Paris December Finance Meeting - Paris, France
Duration: 20 Dec 201620 Dec 2016
Conference number: 14


ConferenceThe 14th International Paris December Finance Meeting
Internet address


  • Managerial characteristics
  • Hiring decisions
  • Corporate governance

Cite this

Kaplan, S. N., & Sørensen, M. (2016). Are CEOs Different? Characteristics of Top Managers. Paper presented at The 14th International Paris December Finance Meeting, Paris, France.