Working Paper No. 1024

Are CEOs Born Leaders? Lessons from Traits of a Million Individuals

Published: June 3, 2014, revised April 2015Pages: 56Keywords: CEO; Cognitive ability; Non-cognitive ability; Height; Compensation; Firm sizeJEL-codes: G30, J24; J31
Published version

Are CEOs Born Leaders? Lessons from Traits of a Million Individuals Renée Adams, Matti Keloharju and Samuli Knüpfer


Our study combines a near-exhaustive sample of CEOs of Swedish companies with data on their cognitive and non-cognitive ability and height at age 18. Although CEOs, and large-company CEOs in particular, have better traits than the population on average, they are neither exceptional in any of the traits nor their combination. Large-company CEOs belong to the top 5% of the population in their traits, but to top 0.2% in pay. The mismatch between the moderately high trait values and the exceptionally high pay explains why less than a quarter of the CEO pay premium over the population can be attributed to the traits.

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union in a Changing World Order

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This book explores how the European Union responds to the ongoing challenges to the liberal international order. These challenges arise both within the EU itself and beyond its borders, and put into question the values of free trade and liberal democracy. 

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