Reputation Institute Announces 2008 Most Admired U.S. CEOs

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Amid Global Mistrust in American Leadership Visible Philanthropic Activity Sends Gates, Buffett and Winfrey to Head of the Class

We are experiencing a national and global shortage of trust in America's leaders. This lack of trust is reflected in the tarnished reputations of Corporate America, the U.S. government and, ultimately, our failing financial systems. But, as shown by a recent finding from Reputation Institute reputations of leaders, and their organizations, can be strengthened through a strategic combination of heartfelt actions and communication.

A new study by Reputation Institute names Microsoft's Bill Gates as the most admired U.S. CEO, with 35% of the U.S. General Public viewing him as the leader they admire most. The 2008 Most Admired CEO Study asked over 7,450 American consumers to name up to three CEO's in the U.S. that they admire most. In addition to Microsoft's Bill Gates, real estate tycoon Donald Trump and Warren E. Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway are the three most respected leaders in the U.S. while Chair and CEO of Harpo Productions Oprah Winfrey and Apple's Steve Jobs round out the top five.

"Being seen as a visionary leader who can deliver strong results on the bottom line at the same time as being a good corporate citizen is what the US general public admires," said Reputation Institute Managing Partner, Kasper Nielsen. "Leaders who link their philanthropic involvement to the core business purpose of their organization are creating the highest level of respect and admiration" he added.

According to Reputation Institute research, the reputation of an entire corporation is built on seven dimensions: products & services, innovation, workplace, governance, citizenship, performance, and leadership. Those final three - citizenship, performance and leadership - have the strongest tie to CEOs. Gates, Buffett and Winfrey each have very visible commitments to philanthropic endeavors. Gates, Trump and Jobs are respected because they have lead their companies to strong financial performance, and all the top five are savvy managers. Though not essential, a strong CEO with these characteristics supports a company's overall reputation strategy and ultimately its bottom line.

After the top five, the next admired corporate leaders include former Chrysler Corporation CEO Lee Iacocca, the late Sam Walton of Wal-Mart, Martha Stewart CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia as well as former CEOs and presidential nominees Ross Perot (Electronic Data Systems) and Mitt Romney (Bain & Co.).

Top 10 Most Admired CEO's

1 Bill Gates
2 Donald Trump
3 Warren Buffett
4 Oprah Winfrey
5 Steve Jobs
6 Lee (Lido) Iacocca
7 Sam Walton
8 Martha Stewart
9 Ross Perot
10 Mitt Romney

CEO Ratings v. Company Ratings

Leadership: The "Most Admired CEO" status of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett parallels the high Global Pulse 2008 rankings in leadership received by Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway, rated fourth and fifth highest in the United States, respectively. Apple's Global Pulse 2008 leadership ranking just made the top 15, but the company's charismatic CEO Steve Jobs was among the top five CEOs on his own right. His high profile, specifically around product launches, grants him familiarity with U.S. consumers. The top there companies in the Leadership dimension of the 2008 Global Pulse are Johnson & Johnson, Google and Disney.

Citizenship: Despite large sums of money donated by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, their respective companies failed to make the top five in the Global Pulse 2008 corporate Citizenship ranking. Berkshire Hathaway came in seventh for Citizenship among U.S. companies and Microsoft ninth. The top 3 ranked companies in Citizenship are Google, Johnson & Johnson and Disney.

Performance: The CEO is often dubbed the face of a company and shoulders responsibility to garner shareholder support. Respected CEOs Gates, Buffett and Jobs have supported their companies to the 2nd, 5th and 9th place positions in the Performance dimension of the 2008 Global Pulse. Trump and Winfrey's companies are not large enough to be included in the study. The 1st and 3rd ranking companies in the Performance dimension are Google and Walt Disney.

Interesting to note, Google ranked number one among US companies in Performance and Citizenship and number two in Leadership, but very few Americans mentioned CEO Eric Schmidt by name. Though, if the people who nominated "whoever owns Google" had mentioned Schmidt specifically, he would have been among the top 15 most admired US CEOs. A visibly strong CEO may help bolster a company's leadership and performance scores, but one is not necessary to communicate strength.

Survey Methodology

The 2008 Most Admired CEO Study asked over 7,450 American consumers to name up to three CEO's in the U.S. that they admire most. CEOs were ranked according to number of mentions in response to the question "Please name up to three CEO's in the United States that you admire most." Spelling irregularities and nicknames were standardized. The data was collected between February and March 2008 during fielding for Reputation Institute's annual Global Pulse Study, a study of the reputations of the largest 600 companies in 27 countries, including the 150 largest U.S. companies.

About Reputation Institute

Reputation Institute is a private advisory firm specialized in corporate reputation management. Through a network of offices and associates in more than 20 countries, Reputation Institute provides knowledge-based consulting services to some of the most respected companies worldwide. Our consulting teams regularly help these global clients assess, value and act on their reputations by providing strategic analysis and direction, as well as helping them to develop and implement cutting-edge reputation measurement and management systems.

Reputation Institute also identifies best practices from original research conducted around the world, and we share our cutting-edge findings with a wide network of clients and members through engagements, seminars, conferences, and publications such as Corporate Reputation Review. The Global Pulse is Reputation Institute's flagship research study conducted annually with some 60,000 consumers in 27 countries from which emerge a set of detailed reputation ratings and rankings of 1000 of the world's largest companies. Each year, the results of this groundbreaking study get featured in leading business publications around the world.

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