Mendoza School of Business

High-flying CEOs

Published: September 6, 2011 / Author: Kate Lunau

Richard Branson, the swashbuckling CEO of Virgin Group, once crossed the
Atlantic Ocean on a speedboat. He’s crossed the Atlantic and Pacific by hot air
balloon, too, and recently announced plans to explore the ocean’s deepest
points in a custom-built submarine. Branson also likes to fly
airplanes—something he apparently has in common with Larry Ellison of Oracle
and Eric Schmidt of Google—which could say a lot about his management style.
According to a new study, a CEO who enjoys the adrenalin rush of flying private
planes is more likely to be a bold, risk-taking leader, and Branson seems to be
a case in point: after all, he launched space tourism company Virgin Galactic,
which calls itself the world’s first spaceline.

In the study, finance professors Stephen McKeon of the University of Oregon
and Matthew Cain of the University
of Notre Dame searched the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification
database and other records; using this, they then compared 179 corporate
executives who hold private pilots’ licences to 2,900 non-pilot CEOs. (Branson
wasn’t included in the study, because it only looked at public companies.)
Interestingly, none of the pilot CEOs they identified were women.

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Topics: Mendoza