Chief executives of Britain's most admired companies have a unique career profile, according to research by the executive recruitment company NB Selection. They are better educated, have more international experience, stay within their industry for longer and are more likely to be internally promoted.

Elisabeth Marx, who carried out the study, says that it shows there is a clear link between chief executives' career characteristics and the reputations of their companies, which include Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Cadbury Schweppes, Glaxo Wellcome, Siebe and BP.

The most-admired companies table, compiled by Management Today in association with Loughborough University Business School, ranked organisations by such criteria as quality of management, financial soundness, capacity to innovate, ability to attract, develop and retain top talent and community and environmental responsibility.

It is perhaps surprising, therefore, to find that the chief executives are three times as likely as their counterparts at other top 100 UK companies to combine that role with the chairmanship - in contravention of the clear recommendations of the Cadbury Report on Corporate Governance.

As a result, says Ms Marx, this is "certainly an area to investigate further, in how far the theoretical recommendations of the Cadbury Report can be supported by empirical data". Incidentally, 14 out of the 15 chief executives who were also chairmen were internally appointed.

Though she notes that these leaders combine "a solid background in terms of education and a `conservative' approach in terms of staying within the same industry and in reaching the top via internal promotion" with a less conservative enthusiasm for international experience, she is particularly interested in the link between international experience and internal promotion.

"The effect of international experience is obvious," says Ms Marx. "Internationally experienced chief executives are more likely to take a global perspective, thereby advancing their business in an internationally competitive market."

Internally promoted chief executives not only have strong knowledge of their company and their industry, but also present less risk in terms of adaptation to the company culture and the top management team."n

Roger Trapp