CEO Superstar

Nov 27, 2002

By George Anderson

Got charisma? You might be chief executive material. Then again, you might not, according to Superhero CEOs: Men or Mice by Dan Burrows that appeared in Monday’s Women’s Wear Daily Business Review.

Mr. Burrows writes that many companies are looking for bigger than life personalities to help lead them through the turbulent economic conditions that have taken their toll on bottom line results.

This may not be the path to the success, however. Some, according to Mr. Burrows, are beginning to question whether CEO superstars are more myth than fact. Mr. Burrows cites the September issue of The Harvard Business Review to illustrate this point.

According to Mr. Burrows, Rakesh Khurana, professor, Harvard Business school makes a compelling case that “While companies hire charismatic bosses in the belief that they will boost earnings, there is little conclusive evidence that this ever happens.” Professor Khurana’s view is that economic conditions and an industry’s health are greater determinants of a company’s success or failure than the top executive.

Moderator’s Comment: How important is charisma and
the leadership qualities of a chief executive in a company’s bottom line performance?

Retailing is a team effort, so it is never one person
that determines how far a company will go. That said, the personality of a company
often comes from the top. We’d remind Professor Khurana of the founder of that
little company in Bentonville, AK. Sam Walton’s leadership had a definitive
bottom line impact.

We won’t argue the point that there may not be much in
the way of conclusive evidence to support the benefits of a dynamic leader.
Clearly, however, there are examples (Martin Grass and Chuck Conaway to name
two) where poor leadership had a negative bottom line effect.
Anderson – Moderator

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