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Why don’t they ever measure this on a CEO?

New research reveals the wider the face, the better the financial performance — but we’ve got a better yardstick for what makes the best CEO

By Todd Humber

In Blink, author Malcom Gladwell revealed 30 per cent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are taller than six foot two, while only four per cent of all men are that height.

And there have been countless studies showing a strong correlation between height and income for men.

Others have pointed to the amount of hair as an indicator of success. Only one of the 15 richest men in America is truly bald, according to a 2008 report — that’d be Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, and he’s number 15 on the list. Staying south of the border, the United States hasn’t elected a bald president since Dwight Eisenhower. And only 25 per cent of presidents have been bald. Statistically speaking, the number should be about 50 per cent.

Now, research out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that looked at 55 CEOs has concluded a wide face translates into higher profits. (The same didn’t hold true for women at the helm.)

There can only be one response to this pile of data — really? These are the yardsticks we use to measure leaders? Sure, it’s makes for a splashy headline that tall men are more likely to be CEOs. It’s quirky that wide faces translate into better financial performance.

But there’s a far better predictor of how an organization, and a CEO, will fare over time. And it has nothing to do with height, weight, eye colour, hobbies or somebody’s favourite food.

It all boils down to how well leaders can connect with and inspire their teams. How engaged are the workforces? Is the workplace culture toxic?

Investors wanting to know where to sink their dollars should care, far more, about how seriously the C-suite takes HR issues than how flowing the locks are on the CEO’s head.

HR hasn’t been great at enumerating this stuff. But the profession is moving quickly on that front. The HR Metrics Service, a partnership between the British Columbia Human Resources Management Association (BC HRMA); the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA); the Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA); and the Human Resource Management Association of Manitoba (HRMAM) is capturing a lot of HR data from employers across the country.

In one of the cover stories for the Nov. 21 issue of Canadian HR Reporter, we take a look at rising absenteeism and turnover figures and what’s driving them — data collected and released through the HR Metrics Service.

Compiling HR-related data, analyzing and crunching it will provide a lot of insight for organizations in the coming years.

There’s little doubt that, at the end of the day, HR professionals will be able to make a very strong business case that good HR translates into a very healthy bottom line — even if it doesn’t make for splashy headlines.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at 

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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