What makes a CEO? Is it a privileged background, a superhuman drive for excellence, or just blind luck? CEO.com looked at what the top executives at Fortune 500 companies have in common — and it is a lot.
The typical CEO, their research found, is a tall, white, first-born man named Peter, Bob, or Jack. (Seriously. Those are the most common names.) Female Fortune-500 CEOs, of which there are a whopping twenty, are most likely to be named Sally, Cynthia, or Deborah. Guys shorten their names, perhaps to seem folksy (“I’m Joe! One of the people!”) while women use their full name, perhaps to emphasize their position (“I’m Elizabeth, the actual boss of you.”) Depressingly, there is only one female, African-American CEO running a Fortune 500 company today: Ursula Burns, of Xerox.
CEO.com also looked at typical schools, ages, and business backgrounds of chief executives, and again found more similarities than differences. None of this, of course, means that men in their 50s and 60s who attended an Ivy League college are necessarily more fit to lead a company. But it does shed some light on the demographics of today’s business leaders, and give tomorrow’s (hopefully more diverse) executives a target to shoot for. For instance, another thing that CEO.com’s research uncovered was that leaders tended to credit past failures with teaching them how to solve problems better in the future.