Like most of his fellow CEOS, Jamie Dimon expects a recession in 2023; indeed, the head of the nation’s largest bank is more bearish than many of his Wall Street peers. To prepare JPMorgan Chase for a downturn, he’s making sure the bank’s $3.7 trillion in assets are shielded as much as possible from risk: “We do 100 stress tests a week in this company,” he tells Fortune. He’s grilling his lending teams about their credit exposure. And he’s staying fully briefed on the bank’s ever-evolving cybersecurity efforts.
In tackling this to-do list, Dimon has an advantage that many other CEOs don’t: longevity. New Year’s Eve Day was his 17th anniversary as CEO at JPMorgan (No. 5 on this year’s World’s Most Admired Companies All-Stars list). With that experience, he says, comes “a deep pattern recognition. There’s no question you get more efficient.” Dimon now has the help of a time-tested top leadership team. And most important, he has developed what he calls a “common, fair culture” across a sprawling company with more than 290,000 employees. “They see you in action,” Dimon says of the bank’s workforce. “They see that what you say and what you do lines up.”
Extensive CEO experience is a common theme on this year’s list. The average tenure for chief executives on our All-Stars roster was 7.8 years as of Jan. 1; that’s 25% longer than for the average Fortune 500 CEO. Leadership experts say this correlation between longevity and reputation reflects a fundamental fact about leadership: It takes a long time—years, not months—for a CEO to build a culture that supports top-performing teamwork.
“In the best companies, people understand what the value system is; they understand the metrics for success; and they have a very high level of engagement,” says Jane Stevenson, vice chair for CEO and board services at Korn Ferry. For new CEOs, she says, it takes 24 to 36 months to build that kind of familiarity across a large company, “to understand and be understood.” But once it’s established, employees feel more comfortable taking risks and implementing new ideas—which means their companies can innovate and transform themselves more nimbly.
Seen through that lens, it’s notable that JPMorgan Chase ranked No. 1 among megabanks in innovation in our industry rankings. The bank’s tech budget topped $12 billion in 2022, as it poured resources into fintech apps and A.I.-driven investment research tools. Dimon says he’s repeatedly expanded his own comfort zone to keep up with evolving tech; these days, he says he’s deeply involved in decision-making around cloud and digital privacy, “stuff I wouldn’t have even imagined 15 years ago.”
Top-performing companies also emphasize developing the skills of their C-suite deputies, and Stevenson notes that long-tenured CEOs have more time to build those relationships. Dimon says that dynamic works best in collaboration and in person. “It’s ‘Sit with me on this client call,’ or ‘Watch me deal with this issue,’ ” he says. Such interaction was interrupted by the pandemic but is mostly back on track at JPMorgan, where about 60% of staff are back in the office full-time.
Longer-tenured leaders do create a management conundrum: the risk that senior talent will get tired of waiting for a shot at the CEO job and go elsewhere. Dimon turns 67 in March, and his contract includes incentives to remain CEO through 2026. “I know we’re a hunting ground” for other companies, he acknowledges. But ultimately that’s something to be proud of. “You treat top talent like partners. You give them authority and responsibility,” Dimon says. “But sometimes you look them in the eye and say, ‘We want you to be happy whatever you do.’ And sometimes that means they’ll be happy elsewhere.”
These leaders of most admired companies stand out for longevity.
Chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
Years in charge: 53
No other Fortune 500 CEO can match Buffett for tenure: He first assumed that title at Berkshire in 1970. He also exemplifies the idea that the CEO who governs best governs least: The chiefs of Berkshire subsidiaries have autonomy to operate as they see fit.
Founder and CEO, Nvidia
Years in charge: 30
Patience pays off: Nvidia and Huang— one of tech’s longest-serving CEOs—toiled in relative obscurity for years until advances in gaming, A.I., and other disciplines turned Nvidia’s GPU chip designs into must-haves in the mid-2010s.
CEO, Occidental Petroleum
Years in charge: 7
Hollub, the first woman to run a major oil and gas company, is one of the Fortune 500’s longest-serving current female CEOs. Oxy has been a winner in the post-lockdown energy boom; its shares are up more than 500% since November 2020.
Overrated: Musk earns some unwelcome recognition
Elon Musk’s chaotic, expensive campaign to remake Twitter, the platform that helped make him famous, has come at the expense of Tesla, the company that made him rich. And it appears to be denting his reputation with his peers: For the first time, respondents in our Most Admired Companies survey voted Musk the business world’s most overrated CEO.
With Musk by his own admission devoting too much time to Twitter, Tesla’s market cap has fallen $630 billion since he launched his takeover bid—the most dramatic example to date of the long-running conflict between his unfiltered persona and his business acumen. Musk did not respond to a request for comment.
This article appears in the February/March 2023 issue of Fortune with the headline, “Veteran CEOs: Jamie Dimon is a case study in why longevity matters in the corner office..”
See the full 2023 Fortune World’s Most Admired Companies list.