The annual review of CEOs seeks to evaluate chief executives based on their entire tenure. Pablo Isla of fashion conglomerate Inditex, finished in first place for the second successive year.

By Daniel Herborn


Posted on October 26, 2018

Header image: Jensen Huang, Nvidia CEO. Photo credit: NVIDIA Taiwan

Harvard Business Review (HBR) Editor in Chief Adi Ignatius said: “In a business environment that often seems obsessed with today’s stock price and this quarter’s numbers, our ranking takes the long view.”

The list factors in shareholder return and market capitalisation as well as a framework of corporate social and governance criteria.

Inditex has been a retail pioneer under Pablo Isla

Spanish company Inditex has a number of subsidiaries including Pull & Bear, Bershka, Massimo Dutti, Oysho, Zara and Zara Home.

It has become synonymous with fast fashion, drawing on a highly flexible production model and a truncated supply chain to model to quickly react to customer demand and new trends.

Unlike most fashion retailers, it invests next to nothing in advertising, instead relying on celebrities wearing its clothes and placing flagship stores in high-profile locations.

Isla is one of only six CEOs to have appeared in every list since 2013.

Formerly a lawyer, Isla has overseen the expansion of Inditex retail outlets from 2,692 when he took the top job to more than 7,200 today.

Jensen Huang of US tech company Nvidia was in second place, having successfully steered Nvidia from its original niche in computer gaming chips to designing chips for data centres and self-driving cars.

Two leaders from the world of luxury were in third and fourth place. Bernaud Arnault of luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE (LVMH) was third, ahead of Francois-Henri Pinault, who leads Paris-based Kering.

Other high-profile CEOs on the list include Jamie Dimon (JPMorgan Chase, #22), Bob Iger (Disney, #32), Jeff Bezos (Amazon, #68).

Trends in the list include a growing number of top CEOs with MBAs (32%) and or engineering degrees (34%). The average age those on the list became CEO is 44.

Only three women made the top 100, up one from last year’s tally.

Harvard Business Review’s top ten best performing CEOs 2018:

  1. Pablo Isla, Inditex
  2. Jensen Huang, Nvidia
  3. Bernard Arnault, LVMH
  4. Francois-Henri Pinault, Kering
  5. Elmar Degenhart, Continental
  6. Marc Benioff, Salesfore.com
  7. Jacques Aschenbroich, Valeo
  8. Johan Thijs, KBC
  9. Hishahi Ietsugu, System
  10. Martin Bouygues, Bouygues