New York-based public relations firm Burson-Marsteller released its 2005 reputation survey of, and found Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, to be the world's most admired business leader.

The 2005 CEO Capital study was conducted online in 65 countries between May and July 2005 and asked participants chosen from a cross-section of 19 industries to name who they thought of as a respected business leader. Nearly 700 "business influentials" -- chief executives, senior executives, financial analysts, business media and government officials -- completed the survey, with roughly one-third of respondents coming from North America (26 percent), Europe (32 percent) and Asia-Pacific (32 percent), and one-tenth from Latin America (10 percent).

None of the chief executives are from the accounting world, which isn't entirely surprising given the survey's international scope and the tendency for the submitted leaders to be skilled in the art of self promotion (see No. 5, Richard Branson of such middling reality-TV fare as Fox's "The Rebel Billionare").

Several interesting characteristics about the world's top 15 most admired leaders did surface, among them:

  • Despite the predominance of American companies among the top four most admired leaders, more than half represent other regions -- the U.K. (4), Finland (1), Netherlands (1), Japan/France (1), India (1) and Australia (1).
  • Eight of the top 15 leaders (53 percent) are company founders.
  • All of the global most admired are insider chief executives (who have been with the same company for three years or more).
  • No female chief executives or chairwomen were chosen.

One thing the top 15 did have in common was longevity."Business decision-makers clearly voted for long-term performance and proven track records over fleeting success," said Patrick Ford, Burson-Marsteller's Global Corporate/Financial Practice chairman, in a statement "The tenures of these top-ranking CEOs are not short-lived. They had an average tenure of 21 years to repeatedly prove themselves."
The 2005 World's Most Admired Chief Executives were:

  1. Bill Gates/Microsoft
  2. Steve Jobs/Apple
  3. Warren Buffett/Berkshire Hathaway
  4. Michael Dell/Dell
  5. Richard Branson/Virgin Group
  6. John Browne/BP
  7. Carlos Ghosn/Nissan Motor & Renault
  8. N. R. Narayana Murthy/Infosys Technologies
  9. Jeffrey Immelt/General Electric
  10. Rupert Murdoch/News Corporation
  11. John Bond/HSBC Holdings
  12. John Chambers/Cisco Systems
  13. Jorma Ollila/Nokia
  14. Terry Leahy/Tesco
  15. Lakshmi Mittal/Mittal Steel

"The selection of Bill Gates as the 2005 world's most admired leader not only recognizes his ongoing stewardship at the company he founded but it also acknowledges the powerful effect that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has had on Bill Gates' reputation," said Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross, Burson-Marsteller's chief knowledge & research officer worldwide and the study's architect, in a statement. "Leaders and their companies can no longer safely ignore the value placed on corporate responsibility and commitment by 21st century citizens."It's certainly a less-than-scientific sampling, and there's plenty of other notables not on the list, including Exxon Mobil's Lee Raymond, who heads up the most profitable company in the world; or Wal-Mart's H. Lee Scott, who heads up the biggest company by market value and has the fastest-growing number of employees. Their chief rivals, Lord Browne of BP (No. 6) and Terry Leahy of Tesco (No. 14) both made the list.
Surveys like this might barely make a blip on the radar screens of the international leaders of Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG, and admiration is certainly a hard-to-quantify quality. But it couldn't hurt the leaders in the industry to be more vocal and more proactive in work they perform to keep the Top 15's businesses something to be admired and invested in.

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