Would You Vote Your CEO In or Out?

May 16, 2015

Would You Vote Your CEO In or Out?

When we asked executives in our study, The CEO Reputation Premium, “If your company had an election for its top leader, and your company’s current top leader was one of the candidates, would you vote to keep your current top leader or would it be time for a change?,” the findings were revealing. We found that six in 10 global executives (61%) would vote to keep their current leader in place. The remainder were thumbs down.

Taking a deeper look into the factors that influenced executives’ yea votes, we saw some interesting nuances.

Reputation matters. Company reputation matters when it comes to executives voting to keep their CEO; 72% of global executives employed at a company with a strong reputation would choose to keep their current top leader, while only one in four executives (24%) working at a company with a weak reputation would choose the same.

CEO reputation counts too. It is no surprise that CEO reputation plays a key factor. After all, that was the point of the question. About nine in 10 executives (89%) working in a company with a highly regarded CEO would keep their top chieftain in place versus executives working in companies with a lesser regarded CEO (80%). Still, it is surprising that 80% of executives would still vote if given the choice to keep their CEOs. The odds are better for CEOs I’d say than politicians.  But we all know that certainty overrides uncertainty and as the expression goes, it is better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

CEO gender has no effect. When it comes to male and female executives, the majority of both men and women would choose to keep their current CEO at the helm if an election were held today (61%, respectively). We’ve seen in our research that once a woman gets to the top, gender does not seem to matter as much.

Social CEOs are more likely to be re-elected by their executives versus unsocial CEOs (72% vs. 59%, respectively), perhaps underscoring once again that it is important for CEOs to have a social presence and join the social media revolution. CEOs — get on board!

CEO yeas and nays by region. In terms of location, we found North American and Latin American executives being most likely to keep their current top leader in the corner office (66% and 65%, respectively) but European and APAC executives not far behind (61% and 59%). Chinese executives felt strongest about keeping their current top leader with a high of 83% saying so if given a vote. Indonesian executives felt strongest about changing their CEO (55%). Japanese executives exhibited the most ambivalence with 25% not sure if they would keep or change their top guy or gal at the top. Or perhaps they just don’t want to say.

Overall, CEOs are supported by their top management. Of course, the figures could be quite different if we were asking managers and below. Senior executives have greater respect for the difficulty of running a multinational business today and have an allegiance to the person in charge. No doubt these factors influenced the tendency for CEOs to be voted to stay in office if we elected our CEOs.

It is a fun concept — CEO elections — if you give it more thought. The idea of your CEO campaigning at various facilities and making poster board signs and buttons bto rally the troops. Campaign speeches, whistle stop tours, slogans and TV debates would make for interesting times.

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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.

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