CEO Reputation Deciphered

July 13, 2006

CEO Reputation Deciphered

The article in yesterday’s WSJ (7-12-06, A Tale of Two CEOs) about two distinctive CEO reputations — Bob Nardelli at Home Depot and Jeff Immelt at GE — was compelling. Not surprising, it was the fifth most frequently emailed article. The page two feature by Alan Murray succintly made the case for how reputations get made today. Two adages apply — “financial performance is necessary but not sufficient” and “perception is reality.” Despite both CEO’s inability to lift share price, Immelt is more highly regarded than Nardelli due to his accessibility, willingness to engage critics, his pay for performance and his drive to make GE a responsible citizen. Here is the quote that says it all to me about expectations for 21st century CEOs:

Success and failure are no longer a simple matter of shareholder returns. For better or worse, it is a much more public game, involving a wide range of constituencies and requiring the skills of a politician.

Being CEO today is much like being a politician. You have to win the vote every day.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

  • Adam S.
    Posted at 04:09h, 14 July Reply

    Thanks for posting, Dr. Gaines-Ross.

    Gone is the day of the “smoke-filled room,” Larence Rawl example of CEO leadership.

    Today, in addition to being the public face ambassadors for their respective brands, CEOs also need to understand the importance of how the blogosphere has made “conversation” with their customers(constituents)a two-way street.

  • LGR
    Posted at 19:53h, 15 July Reply

    Agreed. CEOs have to get their minds wrapped around the new transparency in order to fully communicate their company’s value proposition. However, when you look at a typical CEO’s day, you have to wonder how they can find the time. Communicating internally is hard enough.

  • Jennifer
    Posted at 04:26h, 18 July Reply

    How much more does personality matter than financial performance?

  • LGR
    Posted at 11:36h, 20 July Reply

    In response to your question about personality vs financial performance, the latter is critical. Personality in terms of setting a tone and being an effective communicator with the ability to execute matter deeply. But financial performance gives a company the extra time to prove themselves in a tough business environment.

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