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Leadership

These Are The Highest-Rated CEOs In America

Mark Zuckerberg still ranks high, but there are a couple of surprises on this year's list. Here's what the best CEOs had in common.

The votes have been counted and analyzed and the winners of Glassdoor’s 2016 Highest Rated CEOs at large companies in the U.S. are in.

Mark Zuckerberg claimed fourth place again while Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff made a big move, rising 15 spots to number six from number 21 last year. Google’s Larry Page cinched the number one spot last year, but the company’s new chief, Sunar Pichai, has already inspired employees’ favor coming in at number seven with a 96% approval rating.

Several leaders made the list for the first time including Nestle Purina PetCare’s Joseph Sivewright, debuting at number nine, NBCUniversal’s Stephen Burke at number 39, and lululemon’s Laurent Potdevin coming in at number 48.

Glassdoor’s ranking isn’t just a popularity contest. According to the researchers who conduct this analysis annually, the results were based on anonymous employees' feedback on the platform through a company review. These employees reported on whether they approve or disapprove of their CEO, as well as provide insight about their job, work environment, and employer over the past year.

In order to be included for consideration, a CEO’s company has to employ at least 1,000 people, have a minimum of 100 Glassdoor-approved company reviews, along with 100 or more CEO approval ratings, and at least 100 senior management ratings, from current and former U.S.-based employees. Reviews are accepted from full-time, part-time, contract, and freelance workers, but not interns.

Employee satisfaction is intimately tied to a company’s culture and values as well as trust in senior leadership, according to another study by Glassdoor. Another study by Edelman indicates that trust is hard-won. Among the other notable findings, trust decreases down an organization’s hierarchy as employees say they trust peers more than CEOs when it comes to company information.

In the case of Bain & Company, employees reported their faith in leadership this way: "Management works hard to make things sustainable" and "Strong leaders are willing to take the time to do the right thing and support developing employees."

Scott Scherr at Ultimate Software inspired similar sentiments. "Scott is the sweetest man alive and that’s why the company has such amazing culture… he takes care of anyone and everyone around him," wrote one employee in outside sales. Another wrote, "Scott started Ultimate 25 years ago and since he put people first way back then, the company today is full of empowered, helpful, and loving employees."

At Facebook, a site selection program manager wrote, "Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Chris Cox, and the rest of the leadership team, inspiring, smart and totally real."

Glassdoor career trends analyst Scott Dobroski notes that while this is not the first time female CEOs have made the list, 2016 is the year that has the most women represented. Dobroski points out that in 2013, Victoria's Secret CEO Sharen Turney made the list, and in 2014, both Turney and Yahoo's Marissa Mayer were in the Top 50. No women made the list in 2015, says Dobroski, but Glassdoor recognized the five highest-rated women CEOs, such as General Motor's Mary Barra, who didn’t rank in the Top 50, but were very highly rated by their employees. 

Dobroski says that all of the top CEOs share common traits including strong leadership, dedication to company mission, commitment to professional growth opportunities, investment in company culture, and being personable and approachable. He points out that CEOs, like every other person, are unique individuals. "We do see themes that differ on how they lead a company and a workforce independent of what gender he or she is," he notes.

A recent study from DDI, a global HR consulting firm, revealed similar findings. The report indicated that both men and women score similarly in their ability to drive business.

For CEOs making the list for the first time, Dobroski says it is interesting to note that several are leading workforces that cross time zones and boundaries. "When we look at what their employees have to say, we see that they don't mention one-on-one or a lot of face time, " he explains, "but we see employees talking favorably that these CEOs have found a way to consistently communicate with all employees, including letting them know where the company stands, why their work matters and what's coming up next for the business."

At EY, one employee wrote: "Leadership and team members help build a team environment where everyone has a voice. Leadership recognizes individuals for their contributions and provides guidance."

Says Dobroski: "Employees like this in a leader because it reminds them that their work does impact business and lets them know what's on the horizon to motivate them."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article listed Deloitte's CEO Cathy Engelbert at No. 42. Her rank was #41.

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