Professor Jeff Lovelace Examines Celebrity CEOs in the Academy of Management Journal

Their findings argue that, much like other celebrities, CEO fame is due to the work of journalists and the CEO’s own self-promotion.

Jeffrey Lovelace

Jeffrey Lovelace

“Why do some CEOs become celebrities, while others with seemingly equal accomplishments do not?”

This is the question posed by McIntire Professor Jeff Lovelace and his co-authors in a newly published paper in the Academy of Management Journal.

“The Push and Pull of Attaining CEO Celebrity: A Media Routines Perspective” draws on literature of media routines (concepts such as human interest, gate keeping, proximity, other news-making process influences) to develop and test what Lovelace and co-authors Jonathan Nicholas Bundy, Tim Pollock, and Donald Hambrick call a “push-pull theory” about CEO celebrity attainment. Their findings argue that, much like other celebrities, the resulting fame is due to the work of journalists and a CEO’s own self-promotion. In particular, they find that demographically atypical CEOs, CEOs who guide their firms to take non-conforming actions in their industries, and those who engage in high levels of self-promotion are more likely to achieve celebrity (i.e., high levels of positive social attention).

Testing a theory using a longitudinal sample of CEOs, Lovelace and his research team conceptualized the idea of CEO celebrity as “an ordinal construct with discrete gradations,” which they then separated by who they considered A-list and B-list celebrities to weigh why some rose to the top and some attracted less attention. Testing their theory with a longitudinal sample of CEOs, the team developed an innovative method to measure CEO celebrity in a nuanced manner, considering a wide scope of media coverage across newspapers, broadcast TV, magazines, and online publications. In the paper, they discuss the research and the practical and social implications of their findings.

Read the abstract at the Academy of Management.

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