Should We Really Be Measuring CEO Likability?

May 31, 2017

2:20 pm

Last week, tech publications and startup news sites were all asking the same thing: how much do you like your boss? The questions were spurred by the inaugural 2017 Owler Top Rated CEO Awards, which scored CEOs based on how much people like them. By focusing on the world’s top companies, rather than smaller startups, they were able to put together a comprehensive list of the most likable CEOs in 50 cities across 25 industries. But why?

Define CEO Likability

First of all, likability could not be more subjective, particularly when it comes to the person in charge. It can be based on their motivational prowess, your ability to walk all over them, or even something as simple as instituting casual Friday. Being a likable boss can mean a wide range of things, and as the Owler report admits, they’re not in the business of establishing these definitions.

“The intent of our Owler research is not to define what makes a CEO likable,” wrote the authors of the report. “There are plenty of academic researchers and executive search firms that can weigh in on that topic.”

The Point of Likability

The value of likability as a CEO is unnecessary at best and foolish at worst. Your role as the boss is to motivate your employees, organize the business, and frankly, get shit done. CEO likability should not factor into that, particularly when the favorability algorithm used to make this list was shrouded in mystery. And by that I mean it was not specifically disclosed.

To make matters more confusing, this list is exclusive to larger companies, which are filled with employees that have never met the CEO, let alone interacted with them enough to know whether or not they like them, turning this list into nothing more than a mean popularity contest with few winners and lots of losers.

The Human Factor

The only reasonable response to these questions is that it brings these titans of industry back down to our level. It reminds everyone that, even with all the money in the world, people still form opinions about your personality.

“While the news is full of stories about egregiously high CEO compensation and other stories that might portray CEOs in a bad light, it’s important to remember CEOs are human too,” wrote the authors of the report. “They are either loved, hated or somewhere in between.”

Whether you’re the head honcho of Costco (most likable) or the big boss at United Airlines (least likable), you’re still a person. Will this list help you run your company? Probably not. Is this list the most effective means of humanizing CEOs? Not a chance. But if it takes a glorified popularity contest to keep these bosses in check, so be it.

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Conor is a writer, comedian and world-renowned sweetheart. As the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host Startup Night at SXSW and the Funding Q&A at Innovate! and Celebrate, posing questions to notable tech minds from around the world. In his spare time, he thinks about how to properly pronounce the word "colloquially." Conor is the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co. You can email him at

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