The lack of a long-term strategy is a good indication of a company that lacks ambition, and this is often a fatal flaw. For our first ever Top 100 Executives list, Leaders League took the conscious decision to highlight those executives who, without losing sight of the present, have been able to envisage the future. It’s notoriously difficult to find a way for these two temporalities to coexist in today’s fast-paced digital world.
Vision, determination, leadership. These are three qualities which each and every person on our list have in spades. Vision, first and foremost, because while CEOs have every reason to focus on the short term – pressure from staff and shareholders, political and economic challenges – it is their capacity to deal with the here and now while simultaneously anticipating the future which sets them apart. The CEO of SoftBank, Masayoshi Son (No.17 on our international list), has even drawn up a hundred year plan for his company, which he revises and updates every two years. “If you want to be sure of predicting the future, then you have to write it yourself,” the Japanese businessman is fond of saying. He backed up his words in 2017 with a 100 billion dollar investment fund dedicated to new technologies.
The ability to give meaning
Determination counts too. Each of these remarkable businessmen and women have known the bitter taste of professional failure, some more than once, but what they all have in common is a determination never to give up. Two years into Nvidia’s existence, company CEO Jensen Huang (No.2 on our international list) was staring down the barrel of $10 million in losses and had to fire half of its staff. A year later they sold one million microchips. The stuff of leadership, then, is an ability to unite people around a cause and to give meaning to their work.
Despite the digitalization of her company, Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette (No.15 on our French list) has always put human considerations at the heart of her strategy – and it’s paid off. Sonepar has doubled in size in the last decade and a half and is now the second-largest private group in France.
To arrive at our final selection, we not only looked at financial indicators of success but also took into account the length of time the executive has been in their position, their innovation strategies and CSR policies. With only six women out of 100, we are a long way from gender balance, and this reflects the sad reality that even in 2018 the vast majority of the world’s top companies are run by men. The average age of those on the list, 56, would also seem a tad high, but just as regards female CEOs, here too mentalities are changing. The CEO of Estee Lauder, Fabrizio Freda (No.22 on our international list), has appointed a host of millenials to leadership positions. Now it’s up to the new generation to write the future.
Article by Vincent Paes
(Translated from French by Simon McGeady)
The following Leaders League writers contributed to this special report: Thomas Bastin, Boris Beltran, Caroline Castets, Yacine Kadri, Vincent Paes, Mickael Pariente and Hanna Syed.
Our Top 100 Executives list was compiled using the following five criteria:
1) Continuity: To be eligible, the executive must have been in their current position for at least five years.
2) Growth: Their company must have posted turnover of more than 285 million dollars and registered above-average growth for their sector over the last five years.
3) Profitability: For listed companies, rising net profit and share price.
4) Innovation: The impact of the company on its sector and the potential for further growth.
5) Corporate Social Responsibility: How much the company does in the areas of the environment, community and governance.