New data released from The Harris Poll’s Reputation Quotient study today uncovers the top 25 companies with “excellent leadership” and the overall reputation of CEOs in America. The list covers a wide range of industries: technology, automotive, food retail, financial services, entertainment and apparel. These companies are in touch with today’s consumers; their leaders recognize that thriving as a business today has little to do with size and legacy and everything to do with adapting to consumers’ tangible and intangible needs.
According to the study, year-over-year American sentiments toward CEOs nationwide is growing more positive. In 2018, nearly a third of Americans (32%) say today’s CEOs have a “very good reputation” up from 25% last year. Additionally, the number of Americans who believe that CEOs have a “very bad reputation” dropped from 50% in 2017 to 43% this year.
Consequently, companies with less than excellent overall reputations have been uplifted and redeemed by the public for their “excellent leadership.” Berkshire Hathaway, for instance, ranked #24 overall in RQ, but jumps to #1 when focusing on C-suite in the RQ leadership ranking below. Apple rises from #9 in the overall RQ to #29 in RQ leadership. And Dell jumps from #36 to #24.
When it comes to corporate reputation in the 21st century, the defining factor is built around ideals, a new moral authority—equal parts capitalist and activist—capturing the imagination of investors, talent and the buying public, while redefining what it means to be a public company today. Consumers respect companies with steadfast values; brands that stand up for what they believe in. In today’s divisive sociopolitical climate, consumers are turning to business leaders to fill the void left by the government. Gone are the days when companies could sit on the sidelines, focusing on their bottomlines. In this new era of consumer activism, it is what a company does that counts, not what it says. We see examples of this in the brands topping the RQ leadership list. Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon teamed up earlier this year to provide affordable healthcare to employees, and Chick-fil-A has relentlessly abided by its conservative and Christian values over the years.
Another theme that was evident from the study was an appreciation for companies that embody hearth-and-home values—brands that consciously build and nurture their communities like HEB Grocery and Publix; and companies like Tesla and Amazon innovating sensibly and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.