Huang is a new face at #1 on HBR’s list of best-performing CEOs in the world this year, but he’s no newcomer to the list: He ranked #2 in 2018 and #3 in 2017. (Last year’s top performer, Pablo Isla, of the Spanish retailer Inditex, moved from CEO to chairman, taking him out of consideration for 2019.) That consistency is typical of our list.

Unlike rankings that are based on subjective evaluations or short-term metrics, it relies on objective performance measures over a chief executive’s entire tenure—and these “career numbers” tend to hold steady. It’s no surprise, then, that 65 of last year’s CEOs reappear this year.

Top 20 Best-Performing CEOs in the World, 2019

When Jensen Huang cofounded NVIDIA, in 1993, he focused on a single niche: building powerful computer chips to create graphics for fast-moving video games. As the company went public in 1999 and grew through the 2000s, video games remained its growth engine—but even back then, Huang, a Taiwanese immigrant who studied electrical engineering at Oregon State and Stanford, could see a different path forward.

Data scientists were beginning to ask computers to perform much more sophisticated calculations more quickly, so NVIDIA began spending billions of dollars on R&D to create chips that would support artificial intelligence applications.

By the mid-2010s its AI-focused chips had come to dominate this nascent market, showing up inside autonomous vehicles, robots, drone aircraft, and dozens of other high-tech tools. One look at NVIDIA’s stock chart shows how this bet has paid off: From late 2015 to late 2018, the company’s stock grew 14-fold—a performance that puts Huang, 56, in the top spot on HBR’s list of best-performing CEOs in the world this year.

20. Mark Parker

Top 20 Best-Performing CEOs in the World, 2019

Mark Parker is a businessman. He serves as the President, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Nike, Inc. He was named the third CEO of the company in 2006.

19. Jean-Paul Agon

Jean-Paul Agon

Jean-Paul Agon is the current Chairman and CEO of international cosmetic company, L'Oréal, since 17 March 2011. He graduated from HEC Paris in 1978.

18. Benoît Potier

Benoît Potier

Benoît Potier is a French businessman who has been serving as CEO of the French multinational industrial gas company Air Liquide since 2006. Linkedin Profile.

17. Hamid Moghadam

Hamid Moghadam

Hamid R. Moghadam is an American business executive, engineer, and philanthropist. In 1983, Moghadam co-founded Abbey, Moghadam & Company, an investment manager headquartered in San Francisco, California. After the company became AMB Property Corporation, Moghadam took AMB public in 1997, becoming CEO. Linkedin Profile.

16. Nancy McKinstry

Nancy McKinstry

Nancy McKinstry, is an American businesswoman, now living in the Netherlands, and is CEO and chairman of the executive board of Wolters Kluwer since September 2003, and a member of the executive board since June 2001. Linkedin Profile.

15. Bernard Charlés

Bernard Charlés

Bernard Charlès is a French business executive. He is the chief executive officer and the vice-chairman of the board of directors of Dassault Systèmes, "the 3DEXPERIENCE Company", world leader in 3D design software, 3D digital mock-up and Product Lifecycle Management solutions.

14. Anders Runevad

Anders Runevad

Mr. Anders Runevad has been the Chief Executive Officer and Group President of Vestas Wind Systems A/S since September 1, 2013. Linkedin Profile.

13. Elmar Degenhart

Elmar Degenhart

Elmar Walter Degenhart is a German manager and chairman of the Board of Continental AG since 12 August 2009.

12. Michael Mussallem

Michael Mussallem

Michael A. Mussallem is Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer of the Edwards Lifesciences Corp. He has an extensive knowledge of the medical technology industry in general, and of the people, operations, processes and products of the Company in particular, built over a more than 35-year career with the Company and its predecessor. In addition, in his roles with AdvaMed and other healthcare-related organizations, he has become a recognized leader in the medical technology industry, making important contributions to healthcare policy discussions in California, the United States and the key global markets that the Company serves.

11. Erik Engstrom

Erik Engstrom

Erik Nils Engström is a Swedish businessman, chief executive officer of RELX Group, a multinational information and analytics company, operating in four market segments: scientific, technical and medical; risk and business information; legal; and exhibitions.

10. Bernard Arnaut

Bernard Arnaut

Bernard Jean Étienne Arnault is a French billionaire business magnate, and art collector. Arnault is the chairman and chief executive of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE, LVMH, the world's largest luxury-goods company.

9. Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella

Satya Narayana Nadella is an engineer and Indian American business executive. He is the chief executive officer of Microsoft, succeeding Steve Ballmer in 2014. He led a giant round of layoffs and flattened the organization, getting rid of middle managers. Linkedin Profile.

8. Johan Thijs

Johan Thijs

Mr. Johan Thijs has been Group Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of KBC Group NV and KBC Bank NV since May 3, 2012 and September 1, 2009 respectively and serves as it's Managing Director.

7. Ajay Banga

Ajay Banga

Ajaypal "Ajay" Singh Banga is an Indian-American business executive. He is the president and chief executive officer of Mastercard. Linkedin Profile.

6. Shantanu Narayen

Shantanu Narayen

Shantanu Narayen is an Indian American business executive, and the chairman and CEO of Adobe Inc. Prior to this he had been the president and chief operating officer since 2005. He was honored with India's civilian honor Padma Shri in 2019.

5. Ignacio Galán

Ignacio Galán

José Ignacio Sánchez Galán¹ is a Spanish businessman. He is currently chairman and chief executive officer of Iberdrola, a multinational group present in dozens of countries worldwide and including the likes of ScottishPower in the United Kingdom, Avangrid in USA, Neoenergia in Brazil and Iberdrola Mexico.

4. Richard Templeton

Richard Templeton

Richard K. Templeton is an American electrical engineer and business executive. He is chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Texas Instruments.

3. François-Henri Pinault

François-Henri Pinault

François-Henri Pinault is a French businessman, the chairman and CEO of Kering since 2005, and President of Groupe Artémis since 2003. Under his leadership, Kering divested the retail industry and became a luxury group.

2. Marc Benioff

Marc Benioff

Marc Russell Benioff is an American Internet entrepreneur, author and philanthropist with a net worth of $6.5 billion as of July 2019. He is the founder, chairman and co-CEO of Salesforce, an enterprise cloud computing company. As of August 2019, he owned 4.14% of Salesforce shares, worth $4.33 billion. Linkedin Profile.

1. Jensen Huang

Jensen Huang

Jen-Hsun "Jensen" Huang is a Taiwanese-born American billionaire businessman and electrical engineer. He co-founded the graphics-processor company Nvidia in 1993 and has been its president and chief executive officer since inception. Huang graduated from Oregon State University before moving to California. Linkedin Profile.

What Does a CEO Do?

A CEO is a company’s highest-ranking executive, and his or her duties reflect this hierarchy. A CEO has to make many of a company’s biggest decisions while simultaneously managing its overall resources and operations. The scope of responsibility for this role depends on the size and structure of the company. 

A CEO of a small company may be involved in some of the mid- to low-level decisions so as to fill the gaps when the team is understaffed or to oversee a pet project. A CEO of a larger company may solely focus on high-level strategies involving corporate growth while delegating tasks related to day-to-day business operations to other managers.

In some cases, a CEO is also the main liaison between a company’s operations and its board of directors. Sometimes, the CEO has a position on the board and may even be the chairman. Even in these cases, however, it should be noted that the board of directors oversees the company as a whole and has the power to overrule CEO decisions.

Steps to Become a CEO

Meet Education Requirements
Get Work Experience
Earn Certification.

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