Harvard Business Review Releases 2018 Ranking of the World’s Best-Performing CEOs

Pablo Isla of fashion retailer Inditex tops list at #1

BOSTON--()--Harvard Business Review has published its annual global ranking of the 100 best-performing CEOs, with Pablo Isla of the Spanish fashion retail giant Inditex topping the list for the second year in a row.

Following behind Isla in the #2 and #3 spots are Jensen Huang of NVIDIA and Bernard Arnault of LVMH. They’re joined by newcomers to the top 5 this year, François-Henri Pinault of Kering (#4) and Elmar Degenhart of the German automaker Continental (#5). Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has climbed to the #6 spot, up from #12 in 2017.

The list, which appears in HBR’s November-December issue, is different from other leader rankings in that it measures performance for the entire length of a chief executive’s tenure.

“In a business environment that often seems obsessed with today’s stock price and this quarter’s numbers, our ranking takes the long view,” said HBR Editor in Chief Adi Ignatius.

To compile the list, HBR looked at CEOs of the S&P Global 1200 as of April 30, 2018, and calculated overall shareholder return and increase in market capitalization over their entire tenure. It also factored in ratings of corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance provided by two firms, CSRHub and Sustainalytics. (Read more about the methodology.)

Isla has been running Inditex, whose brands include Zara, Massimo Dutti, and Pull&Bear, since 2005. Measured on financial returns alone, Isla comes in #29 in the ranking. But Inditex’s strong ESG performance, which makes up 20% of each CEO’s ranking, vaults him to the #1 spot.

Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos ranks #68 on this year’s list. Based on financial performance alone (that is, disregarding the ESG component of the rankings), he has been the top-performing leader since 2014, when HBR began publishing the list in its current form.

2018 ranking highlights:

  • Only six CEOs have appeared on the list every year since 2013: Jeffrey Bezos of Amazon; Pablo Isla of Inditex; Blake Nordstrom of Nordstrom; Paolo Rocca of Tenaris; James Taiclet Jr. of American Tower; and Renato Alves Vale of CCR.
  • Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin, Debra Cafaro of Ventas, and Nancy McKinstry of Wolters Kluwer are the only women on the list, reflecting the very low female representation among the CEOs of global S&P 1200 companies.
  • France has a notably large presence in the ranking. Nine out of the 100 executives lead French companies, with four making the top 10.
  • Information technology is the most highly represented industry, with 22 executives on the list.
  • 34 CEOs on the list have an engineering degree and 32 have an MBA.
  • On average, they became CEO at age 44 and have been in office 16 years.
  • 20 of the CEOs lead companies based outside their countries of birth.

Previous rankings were published in HBR’s January-February 2010, January-February 2013, November 2014, November 2015, November 2016, and November-December 2017 issues.

About Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Review is the leading destination for smart management thinking. Through its flagship magazine, 12 international licensed editions, books from Harvard Business Review Press, and digital content and tools published on HBR.org, Harvard Business Review provides professionals around the world with rigorous insights and best practices to lead themselves and their organizations more effectively and to make a positive impact.


Harvard Business Review
Amy Poftak, 617-783-7582


Harvard Business Review
Amy Poftak, 617-783-7582