I Can Be U.S. President? No Thanks.

Executives say they’d rather be CEO than run the country, according to new Korn Ferry survey.


Donald Trump chose to be U.S. president over being CEO of his own company—a decision that an overwhelming majority of corporate executives say they would not make.

When given the choice, 85% of corporate executives say they would rather be CEO of their own organization than lead the country, according to a recent Korn Ferry survey. The other 15% said they would choose to be U.S. president.

“In a way, you could consider the U.S. president as the national CEO,” says Korn Ferry Hay Group senior partner Rick Lash. “While serving as a corporate CEO is generally considered a very challenging role, executives acknowledge the U.S. president faces hurdles that are much higher than those faced by a leader in corporate America.”

The Korn Ferry survey asked nearly 1,500 corporate professionals to compare a CEO job with that of U.S. president. More than 80% said the role of U.S. president is more complex than the role of CEO at a Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) company.

Being leader of the free world comes with extra scrutiny as well. Donald Trump has been president for less than a week and he’s been questioned about his every action, from the serious (the words he used during his inaugural speech and his choice of cabinet members) to the silly (whether the dance with his wife, Melania, at an inaugural ball was “awkward”). A corporate CEO may be questioned on his or her firm’s stock price and business strategy, but usually isn’t scrutinized for dancing ability.

Still, participants acknowledged the positive reasons one would pursue the presidency. Nearly three-quarters said the top reason someone would want to be a U.S. president is to “make a difference.” None of the respondents cited salary and compensation as the top reason someone would want the role.

That isn’t surprising, either, since more than 71% of executives said the U.S. president is underpaid; the president’s salary is $400,000 a year, plus $150,000 for expenses and travel. Nearly half (46%) of the executives said the leader of the free world should receive at least $10.4 million a year, which is the average compensation for a CEO at an S&P 500 company.


Highlights from the Korn Ferry CEO or U.S. President Survey

Would you rather be CEO of your company or the president of the United States?
CEO: 85%
U.S. president: 15%

Who do you think has a more complex job?
CEO of an S&P 500 company: 19%
U.S. president: 81%

What is the top reason someone would want to be the U.S. president?
Salary/compensation: 0%
Challenge: 7%
To be in power: 22%
To make a difference: 72%

What attribute is the most important for a U.S. president?
Driving growth: 32%
Managing crises: 19%
Developing strategies: 42%
Financial management: 7%

At $400,000 annually (plus $150,000 for expenses and travel), is the president of the United States fairly compensated?
Overcompensated: 5%
Correctly compensated: 24%
Undercompensated: 71%

Source: Korn Ferry. The survey was conducted in November 2016 and garnered 1,432 responses.