Underrated/overrated: Executives vote on the biggest CEOs in business

January 21, 2020, 9:30 AM UTC
Illustrations by Sam Kerr
Illustrations by Sam Kerr

This story is part of Fortune‘s 2020 World’s Most Admired Companies coverage.

Which CEOs do other business leaders admire, and which do they doubt? Fortune asked executives and directors for their votes.

Most underrated CEOs, based on 4,825 responses

Satya Nadella, Microsoft

Illustration by Sam Kerr

375 votes

If your peers vote you “most underrated” year after year, are you still underrated? That’s the happy riddle facing Nadella, who has earned that title four years running in this survey. Microsoft’s success since Nadella took the helm in 2014 is certainly no secret: The company has profited enormously from a big bet on cloud computing while undergoing a cultural overhaul to become nimbler and more innovative. Microsoft’s share price, meanwhile, has more than quadrupled, with the company now valued at $1.2 trillion. If commentators overlook Nadella, it may be because he’s scrupulous about delegating authority and sharing credit. As he told Fortune when we named him Businessperson of the Year in November, “I’m wired to be fairly confident in myself and to let others shine.” 

Doug McMillon, Walmart

Illustration by Sam Kerr; Source Photo: Rick T. Wilking—Getty Images

123 votes

McMillon is the first chief of a traditional retailer to crack the “most underrated” top three.

Mary Barra, General Motors

Illustration by Sam Kerr; Source Photo: Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg/Getty Images

113 votes

Few CEOs make decisions under a brighter or less forgiving political spotlight than Barra

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase

Illustration by Sam Kerr; Source Photo: Giulia Marchi—Bloomberg/Getty Images

106 votes

Among the Fortune 500, only Apple made more profit than Dimon’s megabank.

Most overrated CEOs, based on 4,492 responses

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

Illustration by Sam Kerr; Source Photo: Josh Edelson—AFP/Getty Images

785 votes

It’s hard to quibble with Facebook’s financial results under Zuckerberg’s leadership. Neither the bungled handling of users’ personal data nor the social media platform’s role in spreading misinformation has scared users or (more important) advertisers away in meaningful numbers. Analysts expect Facebook to report about $70 billion in sales for 2019, up 26% from the previous year. But at a time when more executives say that addressing social problems is one of their core responsibilities, Zuckerberg’s reluctance to take a stronger stand against false and incendiary content has undoubtedly rankled his peers. Last year’s clumsy rollout of the Libra cryptocurrency project, meanwhile, put an operational black mark on the Facebook founder’s record. (For more on Libra, see our feature.)

Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Illustration by Sam Kerr; Source Photo: Elif Ozturk—Anadolu Agency/Getty Image

364 votes

Respondents still admire Amazon, but they may distrust its growing clout.

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase

Illustration by Sam Kerr; Source Photo: Giulia Marchi—Bloomberg/Getty Images

249 votes

To some, “Bank Rakes in Profits in a Hot Economy” is a “Dog Bites Man” headline.

Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing (until recently)

Illustration by Sam Kerr; Source Photo: Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

241 votes

Boeing’s board came to agree with our respondents, ousting Muilenburg on Dec. 23, 2019.

A version of this article appears in the February 2020 issue of Fortune with the headline “Underrated/Overrated.”

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