These are the Most Cautious CEOs in Tech, According to a Robot

Elon Musk's high rating provides a reminder that ambition shouldn't be confused with recklessness.
Elon Musk at Trump Tower awaiting a meeting with the president.

Caution isn’t a word many people would associate with Elon Musk, the driving force behind Tesla and SpaceX, who last year unveiled a grand plan for colonizing Mars.

Musk is also trying to revolutionize the energy market with new models of electric cars, battery packs and solar-powered roofs, among other endeavors that include creating an underground tunnel network to reduce traffic congestion.

Despite all these initiatives, Musk is the most cautious leader in the tech industry, according a personality analysis by one of the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence units.

The rankings were conducted by IBM’s Watson supercomputer in a study by career advisory firm Paysa.

“the analysis nominated intellect as the most important characteristic CEOs should possess in 7 of 8 industry categories, including entertainment, fashion, finance, law, marketing, media & medicine.”

Musk scored 0.96 points for caution, just ahead of Cisco’s Chuck Robbins, with 0.95, and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, with 0.91.

The ratings were based on Watson Personality Insights’ analysis of speeches, essays, books and interview transcripts. According to IBM, the program extracts personality characteristics based on how a person writes.

“You can use the service to match individuals to other individuals, opportunities and products, or tailor their experience with personalized messaging and recommendations,” IBM claims.

Of course, the results should be considered with caution, given the complexity of human personalities and the limitations of current AI technology. In Musk’s case, though, ambition may not necessarily equate to recklessness. So far, his initiatives have proven to be hugely successful, indicating a great deal of care and consideration has gone into his bold plans.

More broadly, the analysis nominated intellect as the most important characteristic that CEOs should possess in seven of eight industry categories, including entertainment, fashion, finance, law, marketing, media and medicine.

Politics was the only field where intellect wasn’t ranked first: it was overtaken by altruism.

Cautiousness was deemed by Watson to be a much more important characteristic of leaders in the finance sector, while assertiveness scored highly in the entertainment world.

Tim Cook was ranked as the most imaginative tech leader, Satya Nadella the most assertive, Meg Whitman the most achievement-striving, Jeff Bezos the most altruistic and Mark Zuckerberg as the most uncompromising.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events