Shock horror: CEOs are human

If you think that CEOs are hard-nosed, self-assured people think again. Under that tough exterior, they’re really all softies.

In a study for American newspaper USA Today, professor Rense Lange an expert in career and personality tests, asked 877 CEOs to do an online test rating their favourite colours. It turned out that compared to the general public, CEOs were three times more likely to be fond of magenta, three times less likely to select red, and 3½ times less likely to choose yellow. CEOs are wired differently from other people, says Lange.

But what do their colour likes and dislikes reveal? Contrary to popular notions, they are more sensitive and private than the man or woman in the street; they are less likely to be a perfectionist, and more prone to be emotionally unstable. In fact, CEOs sound quite human.

As to the kinds of jobs that would best suit them personality-wise, upper management was an obvious category, but says Lange, they could just as easily have been social workers, artists and teachers (something to do with motivation). One respondent said ‘Leaders are storytellers, teachers and investors.’

Many of the CEOs found they could have had any number of other careers. Marion Sandler, ‘a former Fortune 500 CEO at Golden West Financial… learned that she might enjoy a job as secretary, paralegal, clerical worker or bank cashier.’ (When she was eight she wanted to be a sales clerk, but then she grew up, she said.)

Curiously, four men, including a former chairman of Southwest Airlines, and one woman said they were colour blind or partially colour blind. One colour-blind CEO of a company with 300 sites, said ‘the results were still bang on’.

But the results pose one interesting question. If the typical CEOs is well suited to being a teacher  or an admin assistant, could teachers and admin assistants become CEOs? ‘I wouldn’t be surprised.’ says Lange.

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