Media release
November 20, 2018

Isentia reveals top Australian CEOs in new benchmarking report

20th November 2018

Australia’s top 25 CEOs have been unveiled in the inaugural Isentia Leadership Index. Developed by Isentia’s globally-recognised Insights team, the Index will benchmark and measure leadership profiles from across Australia and New Zealand against a range of variables including media profile, share of voice in media coverage, LinkedIn presence, financial performance and publicly available employee approval ratings.

The top 150 organisations were selected from the ASX50 and NZX50 as well as the leading private businesses based on revenue, drawn from the 2018 IBISWorld Top 500 Companies list published by the Australian Financial Review on 5 September 2018, and the Deloitte Top 200 data in New Zealand.

Isentia’s Chief Insights Officer, Khali Sakkas, who pioneered the new quarterly Leadership Index, says its launch comes at a critical time for Australia, with the term ‘leadership’ appearing in more than 150,000 news stories since the beginning of the year.

“From the federal leadership spill to the Australian cricket team’s involvement in ball tampering in South Africa and the Banking Royal Commission, Australians have grappled throughout 2018 with what it means to be a leader today,” Sakkas says. “But what really stood out was that most of our national conversations on leadership were focused on when it failed.

“The motivation to build this Leadership Index was based on finding a way to better measure leadership, forcing Australians to examine what they want to see from leaders. The obvious place to start was looking at the way leadership plays out in our society – on our screens and on news websites.”

Leading the list as ANZ’s most impactful CEO is BHP’s Andrew Mackenzie. Although he didn’t come out top in any specific leadership metric, his overall score ranked him ahead of other CEOs by a significant margin – driven by BHP’s strong year-on-year revenue growth of 20 per cent and his significant share of voice within its media coverage.

Ed Harrison, Isentia’s own Chief Executive Officer said: “It’s not new knowledge that people trust people over brands. However, this behaviour is having an interesting impact on earned media and leaders such as a CEO hold potentially more influence than they’ve ever had. Much like an established blogger, social influencer or recognised journalist, with the right leadership a CEO can generate the kind of impact we’ve seen traditionally with owned media.”

Australian leadership trends

The Isentia Leadership Index delivered some surprising trends about the nature of Australian leadership. For instance, it found that many CEOs in the top 100 companies have made a clear strategic choice not to be active on social media.

“That our most high-profile CEOs don’t engage on social media adds to the image of them being elite or ‘untouchable’ and goes to the heart of the perception issues leaders have in Australia,” Sakkas says. “Avoiding social media means CEOs are missing the chance to better understand their customers and community.”

The Leadership Index also highlighted Australia’s progress on gender equality in leadership positions. While Workplace Gender Equality Agency data says women hold 16.5 per cent of CEO roles in Australia, Isentia’s analysis found this was significantly lower, with women making up just 6 per cent of the top 100 companies analysed. Of the top 25 Australian CEOs identified in the Index, only one is female.

The Isentia Leadership Index panel event

The launch of Isentia’s Leadership Index coincides with several interactive panel sessions, which are planned for Canberra on 22 November and Melbourne on 29 November. There will also be an event in Auckland on 27 November to launch the Index in New Zealand. The panels, moderated by Sakkas and featuring several Australian business experts, will explore what leadership means and where leaders should focus their efforts to ensure they have the right impact for their organisation and brand.

The Isentia Leadership Index is designed to reflect the industry and market discussions that continue to shift, alongside the consistent top CEOs benchmark. Planned for February 2019, the second edition of the Index will focus on disrupters and innovators, comparing how they are portrayed in the media with representations of the top Australian and New Zealand CEOs. 

“We see this as a ‘choose your own adventure’ style of report as we’re also opening up to those interested in contributing to the discussion and exploring topics of interest – a complete first of its kind in the Australian industry,” Sakkas says. 


Sophie Willis
Howorth Communications
0458 111 948


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