IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/jfinec/v130y2018i2p392-408.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Are CEOs born leaders? Lessons from traits of a million individuals

Author

Listed:
  • Adams, Renée
  • Keloharju, Matti
  • Knüpfer, Samuli

Abstract

What makes a successful CEO? We combine a near-exhaustive sample of male CEOs from Swedish companies with data on their cognitive and noncognitive ability and height at age 18. CEOs differ from other high-skill professions most in noncognitive ability. The median large-company CEO belongs to the top 5% of the population in the combination of the three traits. The traits have a monotonic and close to linear relation with CEO pay, but their correlations with pay, firm size, and CEO fixed effects in firm policies are relatively low. Traits appear necessary but not sufficient for making it to the top.

Suggested Citation

  • Adams, Renée & Keloharju, Matti & Knüpfer, Samuli, 2018. "Are CEOs born leaders? Lessons from traits of a million individuals," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(2), pages 392-408.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:130:y:2018:i:2:p:392-408
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jfineco.2018.07.006
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304405X1830182X
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Eisfeldt, Andrea L. & Kuhnen, Camelia M., 2013. "CEO turnover in a competitive assignment framework," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(2), pages 351-372.
    2. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2008. "Stature and Status: Height, Ability, and Labor Market Outcomes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(3), pages 499-532, June.
    3. Nancy L. Rose & Andrea Shepard, 1997. "Firm Diversification and CEO Compensation: Managerial Ability or Executive Entrenchment?," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(3), pages 489-514, Autumn.
    4. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier, 2008. "Why has CEO Pay Increased So Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 49-100.
    5. Yermack, David, 1997. " Good Timing: CEO Stock Option Awards and Company News Announcements," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(2), pages 449-476, June.
    6. Malmendier, Ulrike & Tate, Geoffrey, 2008. "Who makes acquisitions? CEO overconfidence and the market's reaction," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 20-43, July.
    7. Antonio Falato & Dan Li & Todd Milbourn, 2015. "Which Skills Matter in the Market for CEOs? Evidence from Pay for CEO Credentials," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(12), pages 2845-2869, December.
    8. Alex Edmans & Xavier Gabaix & Dirk Jenter, 2017. "Executive Compensation: A Survey of Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 23596, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Oriana Bandiera & Luigi Guiso & Andrea Prat & Raffaella Sadun, 2015. "Matching Firms, Managers, and Incentives," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(3), pages 623-681.
    10. Hanushek, Eric A. & Schwerdt, Guido & Wiederhold, Simon & Woessmann, Ludger, 2015. "Returns to skills around the world: Evidence from PIAAC," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 103-130.
    11. Ulrike Malmendier & Geoffrey Tate, 2005. "CEO Overconfidence and Corporate Investment," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(6), pages 2661-2700, December.
    12. Bruce Johnson, W. & Magee, Robert P. & Nagarajan, Nandu J. & Newman, Harry A., 1985. "An analysis of the stock price reaction to sudden executive deaths : Implications for the managerial labor market," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1-3), pages 151-174, April.
    13. Steven N. Kaplan & Joshua Rauh, 2013. "It's the Market: The Broad-Based Rise in the Return to Top Talent," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 35-56, Summer.
    14. Thomas Philippon & Ariell Reshef, 2012. "Wages and Human Capital in the U.S. Finance Industry: 1909--2006," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(4), pages 1551-1609.
    15. Steven N. Kaplan & Joshua Rauh, 2010. "Wall Street and Main Street: What Contributes to the Rise in the Highest Incomes?," NBER Chapters,in: Corporate Governance National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Custódio, Cláudia & Ferreira, Miguel A. & Matos, Pedro, 2013. "Generalists versus specialists: Lifetime work experience and chief executive officer pay," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(2), pages 471-492.
    17. Alex Edmans & Xavier Gabaix, 2016. "Executive Compensation: A Modern Primer," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(4), pages 1232-1287, December.
    18. John R. Graham, 2000. "How Big Are the Tax Benefits of Debt?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(5), pages 1901-1941, October.
    19. Marko Tervio, 2008. "The Difference That CEOs Make: An Assignment Model Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 642-668, June.
    20. Nicholas Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2010. "Why Do Management Practices Differ across Firms and Countries?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(1), pages 203-224, Winter.
    21. David Hirshleifer & Angie Low & Siew Hong Teoh, 2012. "Are Overconfident CEOs Better Innovators?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 67(4), pages 1457-1498, August.
    22. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(5), pages 1019-1053, October.
    23. John R. Graham & Si Li & Jiaping Qiu, 2012. "Managerial Attributes and Executive Compensation," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 25(1), pages 144-186.
    24. Nuno Fernandes & Miguel A. Ferreira & Pedro Matos & Kevin J. Murphy, 2013. "Are U.S. CEOs Paid More? New International Evidence," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 26(2), pages 323-367.
    25. Marianne Bertrand & Antoinette Schoar, 2003. "Managing with Style: The Effect of Managers on Firm Policies," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1169-1208.
    26. Ross Levine & Yona Rubinstein, 2017. "Smart and Illicit: Who Becomes an Entrepreneur and Do They Earn More?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(2), pages 963-1018.
    27. Kevin M. Murphy & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1991. "The Allocation of Talent: Implications for Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(2), pages 503-530.
    28. C. Edward Fee & Charles J. Hadlock & Joshua R. Pierce, 2013. "Managers with and without Style: Evidence Using Exogenous Variation," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 26(3), pages 567-601.
    29. Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January.
    30. Faccio, Mara & Lang, Larry H. P., 2002. "The ultimate ownership of Western European corporations," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 365-395, September.
    31. Mullins, William & Schoar, Antoinette, 2016. "How do CEOs see their roles? Management philosophies and styles in family and non-family firms," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 119(1), pages 24-43.
    32. Benmelech, Efraim & Frydman, Carola, 2015. "Military CEOs," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(1), pages 43-59.
    33. Graham, John R. & Harvey, Campbell R. & Puri, Manju, 2013. "Managerial attitudes and corporate actions," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(1), pages 103-121.
    34. Murphy, Kevin J., 1999. "Executive compensation," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 38, pages 2485-2563 Elsevier.
    35. repec:bla:eufman:v:15:y:2009:i:3:p:486-496 is not listed on IDEAS
    36. Heckman, James J, 1995. "Lessons from the Bell Curve," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 1091-1120, October.
    37. Ronald C. Anderson & David M. Reeb, 2003. "Founding-Family Ownership and Firm Performance: Evidence from the S&P 500," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(3), pages 1301-1327, June.
    38. Xavier Gabaix & Augustin Landier & Julien Sauvagnat, 2014. "CEO Pay and Firm Size: An Update After the Crisis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(574), pages 40-59, February.
    39. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
    40. Erik Lindqvist & Roine Vestman, 2011. "The Labor Market Returns to Cognitive and Noncognitive Ability: Evidence from the Swedish Enlistment," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 101-128, January.
    41. Alex Edmans & Xavier Gabaix, 2011. "The Effect of Risk on the CEO Market," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 24(8), pages 2822-2863.
    42. Yuk Ying Chang & Sudipto Dasgupta & Gilles Hilary, 2010. "CEO Ability, Pay, and Firm Performance," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(10), pages 1633-1652, October.
    43. Kevin J. Murphy & Ján Zábojník, 2004. "CEO Pay and Appointments: A Market-Based Explanation for Recent Trends," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 192-196, May.
    44. Oyer, Paul & Schaefer, Scott, 2012. "Welcome to the Club: The Returns to an Elite Degree for American Lawyers," Research Papers 3044, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    45. repec:oup:rfinst:v:30:y:2017:i:5:p:1425-1456. is not listed on IDEAS
    46. Roderick Floud & Kenneth Wachter & Annabel Gregory, 1990. "Height, Health, and History: Nutritional Status in the United Kingdom, 1750-1980," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number flou90-1, September.
    47. Renée B. Adams & Heitor Almeida & Daniel Ferreira, 2005. "Powerful CEOs and Their Impact on Corporate Performance," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 18(4), pages 1403-1432.
    48. Erik Lindqvist, 2012. "Height and Leadership," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 1191-1196, November.
    49. Weisbach, Michael S., 1988. "Outside directors and CEO turnover," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 431-460, January.
    50. repec:eee:labchp:v:3:y:1999:i:pb:p:2485-2563 is not listed on IDEAS
    51. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2001. "Are CEOs Rewarded for Luck? The Ones Without Principals Are," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 901-932.
    52. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2001. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height, Third Version," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-013, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 15 Mar 2004.
    53. repec:hrv:faseco:34651704 is not listed on IDEAS
    54. Morten Bennedsen & Kasper Meisner Nielsen & Francisco Perez-Gonzalez & Daniel Wolfenzon, 2007. "Inside the Family Firm: The Role of Families in Succession Decisions and Performance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 647-691.
    55. Ulrike Malmendier & Geoffrey Tate & Jon Yan, 2011. "Overconfidence and Early‐Life Experiences: The Effect of Managerial Traits on Corporate Financial Policies," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(5), pages 1687-1733, October.
    56. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
    57. Cláudia Custódio & Daniel Metzger, 2013. "How Do CEOs Matter? The Effect of Industry Expertise on Acquisition Returns," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 26(8), pages 2008-2047.
    58. Judith Chevalier & Glenn Ellison, 1999. "Are Some Mutual Fund Managers Better Than Others? Cross-Sectional Patterns in Behavior and Performance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(3), pages 875-899, June.
    59. Petter Lundborg & Paul Nystedt & Dan-Olof Rooth, 2014. "Height and Earnings: The Role of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(1), pages 141-166.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Limbach, Peter & Sonnenburg, Florian, 2015. "Does CEO fitness matter?," CFR Working Papers 14-12 [rev.3], University of Cologne, Centre for Financial Research (CFR).
    2. repec:iza:izawol:journl:y:2018:n:434 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Thomas Breda, 2018. "Working in family firms," IZA World of Labor, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), pages 434-434, April.
    4. Markus Ibert & Ron Kaniel & Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh & Roine Vestman, 2018. "Are Mutual Fund Managers Paid for Investment Skill?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 31(2), pages 715-772.
    5. Efing, Matthias & Hau, Harald & Kampkötter, Patrick & Steinbrecher, Johannes, 2015. "Incentive pay and bank risk-taking: Evidence from Austrian, German, and Swiss banks," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(S1), pages 123-140.
    6. Limbach, Peter & Sonnenburg, Florian, 2014. "CEO fitness and firm value," CFR Working Papers 14-12 [rev.], University of Cologne, Centre for Financial Research (CFR).
    7. Adam Farago & Martin Holmén & Felix Holzmeister & Michael Kirchler & Michael Razen, 2019. "Cognitive Skills and Economic Preferences in the Fund Industry," Working Papers 2019-16, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    8. Keluoharju, Matti & Knüpfer, Samuli & Tåg, Joacim, 2016. "What Prevents Women from Reaching the Top?," Working Paper Series 1111, Research Institute of Industrial Economics, revised 07 Mar 2019.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    CEOs; Cognitive ability; Noncognitive ability; Height; Compensation;

    JEL classification:

    • G34 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Mergers; Acquisitions; Restructuring; Corporate Governance
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:130:y:2018:i:2:p:392-408. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505576 .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.