The 50 global companies with the best leadership team

02 July 2018 6 min. read

A new list of the world’s top companies for business leadership has revealed a number of best practices which can boost a firm’s growth. While ‘boldness’ and ‘innovation’ were qualities which predictably correlated with strong growth, boosts to diversity in a company’s leadership were also shown to drive heightened growth.

As markets tighten amid heightened competition, the importance of top quality leadership at a company has become increasingly vital. A forward-thinking leadership is required for modern businesses to navigate digital disruption, talent shortages and stagnating productivity, among a litany of other key hurdles to economic growth.

International professional services network Crowe releases an annual index of the top organisations in terms of leadership, using data from the 2017 Forbes Global 2000 report, public filings and a news audit to find the most profitable companies in industries the firm frequently serves. Crowe researchers weighed the effects of growth, diversity, boldness and innovation at firms over a five-year period, presenting a score out of ten for each factor. The subsequent paper has revealed boldness and innovation in particular are two of the keystone features of the world’s top business leaders.

The 20 global companies with the best leaders

Atlas Copco and Volvo Group are the world’s best corporate decision-makers, according to the 2018 report, with both performing particularly strongly in terms of both boldness and innovation. The two groups tied for highest overall place, and were narrowly followed by Top scores Apple in third, which was also the largest company of Crowe’s list in terms of market capitalisation. According to the firm, companies with high capitalisation in the list scored an average of one and a half points more in terms of boldness and almost two points in terms of innovation more than the smallest 10 companies by market capitalisation in the index.

With agility having fast become one of the most important watch-words in modern business, this correlation highlights the important relationship between size and maneuverability, as the largest companies often benefit from their roles as trendsetters but must also maintain increasingly bold and innovative actions to sustain their places in the pack. In many industries, this has resulted in a flurry of acquisitions or the purchase of leading properties.

Speaking on the findings, David Mellor, CEO of Crowe Global, commented, “This report is an attempt to quantify the traits of quality decision-making in the context of corporate success. One of the top challenges of corporate leadership is strong and effective decision-making. More than any other factor, it remains the key component to determining successful companies and predicting future success. In making any significant decision, all companies face a range of variables and carry a host of unforeseen biases. By learning more about the process of decision-making, companies can make smarter decisions and create lasting value.”

The 20-50 global companies with the best leaders

Notably bucking this trend in the top 20, however, Peugeot shows that these factors are not the be all and end all for business performance. The French automotive manufacturer scored a perfect 10 in terms of growth, despite relatively low scores in terms of boldness and innovation. Instead, the group boosted productivity via its managerial diversity, for which Crowe scored it an 8.5. Alongside them, high-ranking General Motors (39), BMW Group (52), United Health Group (36) and Johnson & Johnson (39) were also found to have high diversity percentages owing to a large presence of female members on their boards. This goes to show that if companies do put work into tapping into the potential of diversity, which has been heralded for a long time as a major performance enhancer, the results will speak for themselves.

Indeed, manufacturing groups not only dominated the firms which excelled in terms of diversity, but Crowe’s top 50 more generally. 59% of the list consisted of companies which were active in the manufacturing sector. While this is partially due to the broad terms under which the manufacturing sector can be defined, encompassing everything from IT hardware to building materials, the sector occupied 11 of the top 20 positions in Crowe’s analysis. For the manufacturing arena as a whole, it is surely encouraging news that many of the best practices for leadership reside in the industry, which arguably faces a less certain future than any other, thanks to the rise of automation, and geo-political threats to supply chains, among other issues. In terms of the top 50, the real estate sector was the second most populous, at 24%, followed by healthcare at 18%.

The top 50 firms for leadership

The ranking meanwhile revealed that, while the top two firms for leadership were both headquartered in Sweden, the remaining top companies were dominated by those residing in the US and China. 21 firms in the top 50 were headquartered in the States, while a further nine called China home (another two were headquartered in Hong Kong). France was the other stand out nation in terms of business leadership, with five representatives, while Ireland hosts joint third-placed medical equipment firm Medtronic, construction materials group CRH and industrial equipment manufacturer Eaton.

The UK was among a group of four countries to host two companies in the top 50. Automotive and truck manufacturer Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was placed joint 21st, while professional services firm BAE Systems shares 29th place, with a consistent set of results across Crowe’s four categories for one of the world’s largest cyber security consultancies.

While the UK outperformed many countries by hosting any firms in the top 50 for leadership, the lack of a larger contingent may be seen as a cause for concern in some quarters. While Fiat Chrysler Automobiles scored close to the maximum in terms of growth, neither of the British-based firms on the list managed to exceed a score of 6.5 in terms of innovation. With Brexit on the horizon, technological advancement has often been spoken of as a means to offset the negative impacts of the process on the UK economy. With the growing possibility that large tariffs may hit manufacturers in particular following Brexit, British business leaders will need to be at the peak of their powers in terms of boldness, innovation and diversity if they are to survive coming turbulence.