New Study Reveals The Early Career Firms That Propel Employees To Fortune 100 CEO Positions

Ford Motor Company CEO, James Hackett, worked at Procter & Gamble for four years after graduating from the University of Michigan

From which firms do Fortune 100 (F100) CEOs emerge? Are there some companies that do a better job of helping put employees on a path to CEO?

To find out, I looked into the F100 CEOs and identified several factors associated with their career paths: undergraduate schools, undergraduate degrees, graduate schools, graduate degrees, educational majors, functional emphasis, the number of years at their current company (at which they are CEO), and the companies that produce more F100 CEOs (methodology below).

This article is focused on identifying the companies that help set employees up early in their careers to become F100 CEOs. Specifically, I identified all of the firms at which each F100 CEO worked immediately after graduation and then summed across firms. The goal was to determine whether there are early-career employers that put individuals on a glide path to CEO.

In an earlier article, it was revealed how little multi-firm experience the F100 CEOs have (see article here).  Nearly 30% of the F100 CEOs have only worked at one firm—the firm at which they are CEO. This highlights the criticality of “growing up” in these large firms and makes sense. For the largest firms, they can be extremely complex—multiple geographies, products, and business units. This is on top of functional complexity—finance, marketing, sales, operations, legal, human resources, etc. To be adequately equipped to lead such a firm, having in-depth company experience appears to be a prerequisite for many.

However, for the remaining F100 CEOs, they had experience at more than one firm. Interestingly, only seven firms employed at least two F100 CEOs upon graduation. Below are the seven.

Today In: Leadership

While the seven firms are from different sectors of business, they all tend to be long-standing leaders within their respective industries except for Arthur Anderson, which no longer exists. They also are very large firms in their own right, with most among the F100. This suggests that to run a very large firm, it is helpful to have blue-chip training early in your career from a well-respected industry leader. Understanding how to navigate extreme complexity is required to build and lead one of the world’s largest companies.

Earlier articles explored the undergraduate institutions that F100 CEOs graduated from (spoiler alert, it’s probably not what you think) and the average F100 CEO tenure.