Research by Boyden and PROPHET Profiling shows a striking ratio of CEOs’ preference for ‘Influencing’ over ‘Order & detail’ which will shape their approach to their role in galvanising people, but highlights important blind-spots to consider

LONDON, October 17, 2022 – Boyden, a premier leadership and talent advisory firm with more than 75 offices in over 45 countries, and PROPHET Profiling, a leader in the profiling of senior teams and organisations, share data revealing 75 percent of CEOs show a strong preference for Influencing others, 30 times1 greater than the percentage showing a strong preference for Order & Detail.

Research was conducted among 300 CEOs worldwide, capturing leadership preferences across Influence, Order & Detail and Systematic working. CEOs have a statistically-significant lower preference in the latter two areas, compared with other C-suite leaders and the executive population, totalling nearly 12,800 in the research.

“Previous career trajectories for CEOs have highlighted a detail-oriented, often ‘quantitative’ background,” comments Trina D. Gordon, President & CEO of Boyden. “The data show today’s CEOs prefer to lead through influence, as ‘off the page’ people leaders with a more ‘qualitative’ approach, rather than being driven by detail, order and consistency”.

The data show CEOs typically share optimism and empathy, ‘influencing and persuading others’ and ‘generating motivation towards a goal’. While 75 percent show a preference for Influence, only 2.3 percent show a strong preference for Order & Detail, specifically ‘being careful,’ ‘organised’ and ‘rigorous’; 7.5 percent show a strong preference for ‘Systematic’ working, namely ‘working in a structured and planned fashion’.

CEOs profiled indicate that they tend to start out with great zeal when formulating vision and strategy; but many tended to be far less motivated by organisational status quo and operational detail. Strong and senior-level team members responsible for implementation are critical to CEOs, and must be granted tactical freedom to deliver the vision.

Tactics to Get the Best from the CEO

CEOs are usually fully in control of detail but do not use it in sharing their vision. In identifying specifics, there are practical actions executives can take:

  1. Stipulate how you want meetings to be run: articulate the difference between structured and creative discussions and focus on each separately.
  2. Be prepared to adapt your style to theirs: recognise and accommodate the CEO’s natural tendencies. Figuring out the ‘how’ is to your advantage.
  3. Support those on whom the CEO depends for detail: recognise the importance of their role, and harness their capabilities.
  4. Leverage others in the leadership team with different preferences: give an individual with a different work style a role that contributes in a broader or more informal sense.
  5. If your CEO is among the atypical 5 percent who have a low preference for Influencing: encourage them to share their vision and more deliberately motivate direct reports and their teams.

The full research output is available online at PROPHET/Boyden Insights Series.

About the Study

The PROPHET Study involved 308 CEOs, 2,778 C-suite leaders, and 10,000 from the executive population, profiled during assignments in executive search, on-boarding and leadership development. They come from over 90 countries and typically lead medium or large organisations.

About Boyden and Building High Performing Teams

Boyden is a premier leadership and talent advisory firm, with more than 75 offices in 45 countries. With over 150 certified practitioners, Boyden uses PROPHET in leadership consulting engagements and also in executive search; fast-tracking the assignment, enhancing the relationship between client and candidate, and supporting the successful integration of the appointed executive into their new team.

PROPHET is not used to inform a selection decision, as it is not predictive of performance. It does, however, provide valuable insight on how an individual will approach their role and the style of their decision-making. With PROPHET, the appointed executive and key stakeholders will have an initial understanding of each other’s work preferences, establishing a high-performing business relationship from the outset.


PROPHET (Predictive Role Profiling for High-Performing Executive Teams) is a business-focused profiling tool specifically designed for senior executives. It is both a valid psychometric instrument registered with the British Psychological Society, and a powerful team and organisational insight instrument. PROPHET sheds light into working relationships in a way that is quick and relevant, helping form high-performing teams. It is used globally by organisations of different sizes, across all sectors.


Chris Swee, Boyden
Chief Marketing Officer
T: +1 914 747 0172

Ben Stones, PROPHET Profiling
Co-Founder, Managing Director
T: +44 20 7440 3000

[1] Differences between CEOs and the executive population are measured using a Chi Squared test, which determines whether there are statistically significant differences between the expected frequencies and the observed frequencies in one or more categories.

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