The Harvard Business Review’s list was determined by assessing CEO performance over the entire length of their tenure, measuring overall shareholder return and increase in market capitalization. It also factored in two separate ratings of environmental, social and corporate governance, or ESG, performance.
“The list offers a stark reminder that even spectacular past performance doesn’t ensure job security,” HBR said in a statement.
Novo Nordisk, which is the world’s biggest producer of insulin, announced last month that Sørensen would retire by the end of 2016, two years ahead of schedule. The company had just issued a profit warning after facing intense competition in the U.S. market.
Sørensen has been at the helm since November, 2000 and his departure supports the notion that there should be no sacred cows when it comes to board deliberations about succession.
Coming in at number two on HBR’s list was Martin Sorrell, the CEO of British advertising company WPP since 1986.
Pablo Isla, the head of Spanish fast-fashion retailer and Zara-owner Inditex since 2005, rounded out the top three.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who took out the number one spot in 2014, still led the pack purely on financial metrics. But the inclusion of the two ESG measures meant he dropped to 87th in 2015, before rising a little this year to 76th.
“In a world of short-termism, we’re heartened to see a group of leaders who have stayed the course and delivered strong performance over many years,” HBR editor Amy Bernstein said.
The highest-ranked CEO of an American company this year was Jen-Hsun Huang, the head of tech company NVIDIA, who took out 6th place.
On average, the top 100 CEOs oversaw an overall annual return on their stock of 20.2%. Their average starting age was 44 years old and they’d been in the top job for an average of 17 years.
The full list can be viewed here.