The PROPHET/Boyden Insights Series are brief articles providing an understanding on leadership roles and executive team dynamics. The insights are based on the leadership styles of 10,000 executives and more than 2,500 C-suite leaders, representing organizations worldwide of different sizes, across all sectors. Each article provides statistically significant patterns of behavior; explains the business implications and offers advice for optimizing collective performance. In this third article, we review how the decision-making preferences of CFOs are the most different in the C-suite.

CFOs are the most likely to prioritize ‘taking an analytical approach’ and the least likely to spend time ‘influencing others’

In common with C-suite colleagues, the majority of CFOs indicate a strong preference for Driving - they are likely to be goal-oriented, direct and assertive. However, two attributes distinguish them: they are the most motivated by ‘analytical decision-making’; and the least motivated by ‘influencing colleagues’.

In analytical decision-making, CFOs are likely to take a more rational, data-driven approach; they prefer to gather information, think through problems, model outcomes and analyze ideas to determine the best solution.

CFOs are the least motivated by influencing colleagues, convincing and persuading others. They are more likely to regard a well-considered proposal as sufficient rationale for decision-making, without needing to galvanize others to generate energy and enthusiasm.

The typical PROPHET Profile of CFOs

The study of 288 CFOs profiled by PROPHET indicates a statistically significant higher preference for ‘analytical decision-making’ and lower preference for ‘influencing others’ compared with C-suite colleagues: about 80% more CFOs indicate a preference for analytical decision-making, yet around 50% more C-suite colleagues indicate a strong preference for Influencing when compared with CFOs. Both these differences reach statistical significance, using a Chi-squared test.

“The PROPHET Insights that support our executive search and leadership consulting assignments highlight the importance of the CFO’s contribution and their behavior within the C-suite”, comments Victor Escandón, CFO, Boyden. “It is essential that my fellow finance professionals use their different attributes to enhance decision-making and the capabilities of the leadership team in all its thinking and activities, rather than limiting our contribution to financial operations. We are well placed to add strategic value.”

Note: differences between CFOs and the executive population are measured using a Chi Squared test. In each test, P=0. This test determines whether there is a statistically significant difference between the expected frequencies and the observed frequencies in one or more categories.


The PROPHET Study involved 288 CFOs, 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 organizations. 

Business implications

With the different preferences of CFOs, the following may be true:

Getting the best from the CFO

Techniques to leverage CFO preferences: 

This doesn’t reflect me or the CFO I work with

Not all CFOs will conform to this profile; give careful consideration to the type of CFO you are, or with whom you are working. For example, just under 1/3rd of CFOs profiled indicated a strong preference for Influencing, and these CFOs will therefore approach the role with a very different style. 

Questions to consider

About Boyden and Building High-Performing Teams

Boyden is a premier leadership and talent advisory firm, with more than 70 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 organizational 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 organizations of different sizes, across all sectors.


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