These Are the World’s Top CEOs According to Harvard Business Review

Every year, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) breaks down the world’s 100 best-performing CEOs for their November issue.

Last year, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos topped the list, while in 2013 the late Graham MacKay of SABMiller took the honour.

This year, however, the man occupying top spot is a little more obscure: Lars Rebien Sørensen, of Danish multinational pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk.


HBR used a complex arrangement of metrics to arrive at its conclusion, with emphasis on total shareholder return and the change in each company’s market capitalization. The board also considered measurement of each company’s environmental, social, and governance performance. Long-term financial results were weighted at 80%, and ESG performance at 20% for each CEO/company.

Novo Nordisk’s performance has been buoyed by an alarming global diabetes epidemic. The company’s signature drug, Levemir, is effective in maintaining a person’s basal level of insulin.

John Chambers of tech giant Cisco Systems and Pablo Isla of Inditex, the biggest fashion group in the world, round out the top three.

John Chambers


Pablo Isla


Other notable inclusions are the aforementioned Bezos, who dropped 87 spots after this year’s introduction of the environmental-social-governance performance measure, and now-resigned Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, who secured the 20th spot before everything unravelled following the April 30 cut-off for HBR’s evaluation.

Notable exclusions, meanwhile, are women. Only two females feature among the 100 top CEOs – Ventas CEO Debra Cafaro and TJX CEO Carol Meyrowitz – a fact Elle magazine poignantly boils down to more than just run-of-the-mill sexism.

The consumer goods, healthcare, and financial services industries boast the most CEOs on the list (12 each), an overwhelming amount are from the United States (41), 74 per cent do not have an MBA, and only 19 per cent are the founders of the company.

The top 25 below:

1. Lars Rebien Sørensen of Novo Nordisk
2. John Chambers of Cisco Systems
3. Pablo Isla of Inditex
4. Elmar Degenhart of Continental
5. Martin Sorrell of WPP
6. Stephen Luzco of Seagate Technology
7. Jon Fredrik Baksaas of Telenor
8. George Scangos of Biogen
9. Michael Wolf of Swedbank
10. Fujio Mitarai of Canon
11. Leslie Wexner of L Brands
12. Howard Schultz of Starbucks
13. Florentino Pèrez Rodrìguez of Acs
14. Jacques Aschenbroich of Valeo
15. Benoit Potier of Air Liquide
16. Carlos Brito of Anheuser-Busch InBev
17. Lars Rasmussen of Coloplast
18. Kasper Rorsted of Henkel
19. Alexander Cutler of Eaton
20. Martin Winterkorn of Volkswagen (now resigned)
21. Mark Parker of Nike
22. Martin Gilbert of Aberdeen Asset Management
23. Johan Thijs of KBC
24. Roberto Egydio Setubal of Itaù Unibanco
25. Laurence Douglas Fink of Blackrock