Are CEOs Born Leaders? Lessons from a Million Individuals

Renee Adams, Matti Keloharju, Samuli Knüpfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-408
JournalJournal of Financial Economics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • CEOs
  • Cognitive ability
  • Noncognitive ability
  • Height
  • Compensation


Dive into the research topics of 'Are CEOs Born Leaders? Lessons from a Million Individuals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this