CEO Reputations Need Work

June 15, 2009

CEO Reputations Need Work


We just released the results of a survey we did with KRC Research among 151 executives in Fortune 1000 companies in April/May on the reputation of CEOs in general. Although we have seen several surveys on what consumers think and it is not pretty, we thought it would be useful to understand what the executive class thinks about this elite group of officers. Since it is critical that the next generation of leaders do not abandon ship and decline any “chieftain” jobs if offered, we thought we’d inquire about their perceptions. As many CEOs gather in Detroit this week to come up with solutions on American competitiveness (National Summit), this would be a good time. Here are some of the findings:


*The majority of executives in America’s biggest companies – 66% – believe that the reputation of CEOs today is largely negative. Only 14% give CEOs a positive rating and the remaining 20% are non-committal.


*Despite CEOs’ low approval rating, approximately one out of two executives (49%) report being interested in becoming CEO one day, virtually unchanged from earlier aspirations. Even those executives who rate CEOs’ reputation poorly are surprisingly upbeat about one day accepting a CEO position (48%).


*Executives overwhelmingly believe that the road to CEO redemption requires publicly taking responsibility when their firms are in crisis and tying CEO compensation to performance (knew that was coming). Other critically important steps include holding more face-to-face meetings with employees, publicly speaking up for themselves and their companies, being more transparent, and issuing regular CEO updates about their business outlook. No surprise that internal and external communications figure large in CEO reputation salvation. It is important to now begin filling the void.


The good news is that our next generation of CEOs appears eager to sit in the corner suite and for the right reasons (making a difference, growing business and meeting the toughest challenges of the day). CEOs have their work cut out for them but I think we will see reputation recovery in due time.  In fact, when we asked when we’d see CEO reputations redeemed, it looks like 2013 is the year. Mark it on your calendars. I did on mine.


[Check out an interview on the results in BusinessWeek online]






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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.