What’s In a (CEO) Name?

by Jennifer Miller on April 28, 2011

in Workplace Issues

Once again, data culled from social media has allowed us to dig ever-deeper into the lives of the people around us. Up for discussion: to what extend does one’s name contribute to ascension to the top spot in the business world? According to a recent Fast Company article, business social media site LinkedIn has been doing some data mining may provide insight.

LinkedIn listed the Top 10 Male and Female CEO Names as reported by job titles and given names on the LinkedIn site. The Fast Company article doesn’t go so far as to suggest that a person’s name actually determines his or her success in work endeavors.  However, they do raise this interesting observation: most of the top names for men are nicknames or shortened versions of given names (Bob and Jack) but most of the names for women are the more formal version, such as Deborah and Cynthia.

Linguist Frank Nuessel offers this speculation in the article: because women with CEO titles are a fairly recent development in the business world, perhaps they identify themselves by the more formal moniker.  Based on my personal interactions and observations with my female colleagues, I’d say there is some basis to that theory.

Here’s another curious connection that I noted: the #1 CEO male name is Peter and the #2 CEO female name is Sally. When I started writing The People Equation in 2009, I created pseudonyms for the leaders that I feature. What did I decide to name them? Pete and Sally.

Huh. Maybe there’s more to that “name” thing than meets the eye. What do you think? Is it easier to gain leadership credibility if your name is Ann or Fred rather than Cyndii or Cornilias?

photocredit: istockphoto.com © Isaac Koval

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