Leadership statistics in the UK

The latest and most important leadership data
Andrew Fennell photo Andrew Fennell | September 2023

Business leadership is always a hotly debated topic.

Are leaders doing a good job? Are they paid too much? Do they come from diverse backgrounds?

We’ve gathered all the vital statistics on leaders from the FTSE 100 and a range of surveys, studies and reports in the UK, and compiled them all here in this mammoth one-stop leadership resource page.


Key leadership statistics

  • 90% of FTSE 100 CEOs are men, and 96% are white.
  • Firms whose boards are at least 1/3 female, are 10 times more profitable.
  • Only 6 CEOs in the FTSE 100 come from ethnic minority backgrounds.
  • Only 28% of all executive roles in the FTSE 100 are held by women.
  • The average FTSE 100 CEO is paid £4.3 million pounds per year.
  • The UK’s highest paid boss earned £263 million last year.
  • 60% of Brits think that CEO pay should be reduced.
  • Female CEOs in the FTSE 100 earn 15% less than male CEOs.
  • The average CEO works 58 hours per week.
  • The average FTSE 100 CEO holds a degree from Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard.
  • 83% of British CEOs are promoted internally within the company.
  • More than half of FTSE 100 CEOs have a finance background.


Who are business leaders in the UK?

Who are the people leading UK businesses?

Well, overwhelming UK CEOs are white (96%), male (93%) and over 50 years old (80%) [31]

Here is a further breakdown of their most common demographics.


Leadership statistics - Percentage of male CEOs


What gender are leaders?

  • As of August 2023, 90 of the FTSE 100’s CEOs are men. (These are the UK’s biggest 100 companies)
  • 97% of FTSE 100 CTO’s (Chief technology officers) are male. [5]
  • According to analysis of UK boardrooms by Green Park, 90% of top 20 UK leadership positions are held by white males.


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Women in leadership

According to a report from Bloomberg, UK firms whose executive boards are at least one-third female, are 10 times more profitable than companies with all-male boards. [8]

So, what are the numbers behind British female leadership?


What percentage of leaders are women in the UK?

  • Raconteur reported that only 10% of FTSE 100 companies have a female CEO.
  • In the FTSE 350 only 6% of CEOs are women [2]
  • Two thirds of FTSE 100 companies do not have any women in executive director roles.
  • Only 28% of all executive roles in the FTSE 100 are held by women. [4]

Although those numbers are low, the situation has improved from 2010 when a government report found that half of all FTSE 250 companies had no women in the board room at all. [1]


Female leadership in the US

Looking overseas for comparison, in the USA only 10.4% of Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO. [7]


FTSE 100 companies with female CEOs

CEO Company
Milena Mondini de FocatiisAdmiral Group
Amanda BlancAviva
Jette Nygaard-AndersenEntain
Emma WalmsleyGSK
Liv GarfieldSevern Trent
Jennie DalyTaylor Wimpey
Margherita Della ValleVodafone Group
Alison BrittainWhitbread
Debra CrewDiageo
Louise BeardmoreUnited Utilities


Leadership diversity and ethnicity statistics

According to a report from Ernst & Young, only 6 CEOs from the FTSE 100 come from an ethnic minority background. [9]

However, 96% of FTSE 100 firms have at least one director from an ethnic minority background on their board.

There are no women of colour holding CEO positions in the FTSE 100. [2]

A study from workplace diversity charity Involve found that there are more CEOS called Steve in the FTSE 100, than there are CEOs from ethnic minority backgrounds. [11]


Leadership diversity statistics


How old are leaders?

The average CEO in the FTSE 100 is 55.6 years old, and the average CFO is 52.5 years old [12]

The youngest FTSTE 100 CEO is 40 and the oldest is 71.


How much are business leaders paid in the UK?

Business leader pay is an emotive topic with some people viewing executive pay as inexcusably excessive, and others seeing it as necessary to attract and retain the best leaders.

The Guardian recently reported that a survey found 60% of Brits think that CEO pay should be reduced. [20]

Publicly traded companies in the UK must disclose directors pay by law, so what does the data from the FTSE 100 and other sources tell us about leadership pay?


Average CEO pay UK

  • The average FTSE 100 CEO is paid £4.3 million pounds per year including bonuses and benefits – this is 130 times more than an average UK full-time worker. [14]
  • The average FTSE 100 CEO earned more money in the first five days of 2023, than the average UK employee will earn in the entire year (£33,000) [15]
  • In 2022 the average CEO received a £500,000 pay rise. [16]


Average UK CEO earnings


Highest paid bosses in the UK

  • The UK’s highest paid boss in 2022 was Denise Coates (Managing director of Bet365) who was paid a total of £263 million.
  • In the FTSE 100 the highest paid CEO of 2022 was Pascal Soriot of Astra Zeneca, earning a total of £15.5 million. [16]
  • In 2021 the highest paid CEO of the FTSE 100 was Charles Woodburn of BAE systems with a total renumeration of £10.7 million.



Gender pay gap amongst UK CEOs

According to HR magazine, the average female CEO in the FTSE 100 earns 15% less than the average male CEO.


Leadership work life

The numbers behind working life as a leader of a large company.


How many hours do leaders work?

A survey of 256 CEOs found that the average CEO works 58.15 hours per week (11.6 hours per day) [18]

This around 22% longer than the average full time UK employee works.


Stress and mental health amongst leaders

A Deloitte survey found that 1 in 3 C-suite executives constantly struggle with work-life balance, fatigue and poor mental health – and 70% have considered quitting their jobs because of this.


What people think of their bosses


What do UK employees think of their leaders?

A range of recent polls of UK workers published across various new publications, showed the following opinions on British bosses:

  • One in three UK workers think they could do their bosses job better than them.
  • 40% of people do not think their current line manager is good at their job.
  • 10% of employees think their boss is arrogant.
  • More than half of UK workers have considered looking for a new job to escape their boss.
  • Over a fifth of British workers say they have “no respect” for their boss [21]
  • 61% of UK workers dread going into work because of their boss. [22]
  • Seven in ten people think that British bosses are “out of touch” with the lives of ordinary people. [23]


What skills do leaders need?

What are the vital skills needed by leaders to drive their organisations’ forward effectively?

Harvard university surveyed 195 leaders from 15 countries across 30 global organisations and asked them what their top leadership competencies are. The results are listed below.


Top 10 leadership competencies

CompetencyPercentage of respondents
Has high ethical and moral standards67%
Provides goals and objectives59%
Clearly communicates expectations56%
Has the flexibility to change opinions52%
Is committed to ongoing training 43%
Communicates often and openly42%
Is open to new ideas and approaches39%
Creates a feeling of succeeding together38%
Helps me grow into a next generation leader38%
Provides safety for trial and error37%



Most desirable skills for leaders

Leadership development solutions provider CMOE surveyed 2,100 professionals over 5 years to find the most desirable skills and talents a leader should have.

Here are their findings:

  1. Communication skills (45.2%)
  2. Interpersonal skills (44.2%)
  3. Values and ethics (41.9%)
  4. Personal attributes (30.2%)
  5. Coaching and feedback (21.8%)
  6. Credibility (22.3%)
  7. Direction and strategy (16.7%)
  8. Management essentials (5.6%)



What education do UK CEOs have?

  • According to research by the Guardian, the average FTSE 100 CEO holds a degree in economics from Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard. [26]
  • Globally 15% of the top CEOs attended Oxford or Cambridge universities. [27]
  • A quarter of all FTSE 100 CEOs have an MBA (Masters in business administration) or a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
  • More than half of FTSE 100 CEOs have a finance background and 23% are qualified chartered accountants. [13]
  • Economics, business and law are the most popular degree subjects amongst UK CEOs
  • One in ten FTSE 100 CEOs did not attend university at all.


How do CEOs get the job

CEOs must be selected by the board of directors in British companies – but how do most of them land the top job?

  • According to recent research from PwC, 83% of British CEOs are promoted internally within the company. [28]
  • More than one in five UK CEOs have never served as an executive before landing the top role. [29]
  • 15% of FTSE 100 CEOs have spent their entire career at one company according to a report from Robert Half. [30]




[1] UK Government – Lord Davies independent review into Women on Boards: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/women-on-boards

[2] Racontuer – The FTSE 100’s first all-female top team is shamefully overdue: https://www.raconteur.net/leadership/tse-100s-first-female-leadership-team-overdue

[3] Cranfield – Female FTSE Board Report: https://www.cranfield.ac.uk/femaleftseboardreport

[4] Board Agenda – Less than a third of FTSE 100 executives are women: https://boardagenda.com/2023/03/09/less-than-a-third-of-ftse-100-executives-are-women/

[5] Tech Nation – DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN UK TECH  : https://technation.io/diversity-and-inclusion-in-uk-tech

[6] Personnel Today – FTSE 100: Proportion of white male leaders is increasing: https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/green-park-business-leaders-index-2021-ftse-100-diversity-inclusion/

[7] Fortune – Women CEOs run 10.4% of Fortune 500 companies: https://fortune.com/2023/06/05/fortune-500-companies-2023-women-10-percent/

[8] Bloomberg – U.K. Companies With More Women on Executive Boards Outperform on Profits: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-27/u-k-firms-with-more-women-on-exec-boards-outperform-on-profits

[9] Ernst & Young – Nearly all FTSE 100 companies have met the Parker Review’s ‘One before 2021’ target to improve ethnic diversity of FTSE 100 boards: https://www.ey.com/en_uk/news/2022/03/nearly-all-ftse-100-companies-have-met-the-parker-review-s-one-before-2021-target-to-improve-ethnic-diversity-of-ftse-100-boards

[10] The Guardian – Nearly all FTSE 100 firms now have at least one minority ethnic board member: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/mar/13/uk-ftse-companies-minority-ethnic-board-members-parker-review

[11] The Independent – FTSE 100 has more CEOs called Steve than from ethnic minorities, research finds: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/ftse-100-ceos-called-steve-ethnic-minorities-diversity-a8769006.html

[12] Spencer Stuart – 2022 UK Spencer Stuart Board Index: https://www.spencerstuart.com/research-and-insight/uk-board-index/board-composition

[13] Elevation Recruitment Group – The success factors of Britain’s biggest bosses: https://www.elevationrecruitmentgroup.com/news/the-success-factors-of-britains-biggest-bosses

[14] Raconteur – CEO pay: how much money is too much: https://www.raconteur.net/responsible-business/ftse-100-ceo-pay-how-much

[15] The Independent – Top bosses set to surpass annual pay of average worker just five days into 2023: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/ftse-100-ceo-salary-cost-of-living-b2256447.html

[16] The Guardian – FTSE 100 bosses ‘given average pay rise of £500,000 in 2022: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/aug/22/ftse-100-bosses-given-average-pay-rise-of-500000-in-2022

[17] HR Magazine – CEO pay soars, but female execs lose out: https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/content/news/ceo-pay-soars-but-female-execs-lose-out

[18] Time magazine – This Is the Secret Way CEOs Stay Ultra-Productive: https://time.com/4076563/ceos-productivity/

[19] Raconteur – Why CEOs’ mental health is business-critical: https://www.raconteur.net/leadership/ceo-mental-health

[20] The Guardian – Most Britons back curbs on bosses’ pay, survey finds: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/may/03/most-britons-back-curbs-on-bosses-pay-survey-finds

[21] The Independent – Third of UK workers believe they could do their boss’s job better than them, research finds: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/uk-workers-boss-job-better-employees-manager-workforce-a8301391.html

[22] Free Office Finder – What Do Office Workers Throughout the UK Really Think of Their Boss: https://www.freeofficefinder.com/article/what-do-you-think-of-your-boss-survey-results

[23] The Times – Bosses are out of touch with public, say 7 in 10: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/bosses-are-out-of-touch-with-public-say-7-in-10-v9gpcdzct

[24] Harvard Business School –  The Most Important Leadership Competencies, According to Leaders Around the World: https://hbr.org/2016/03/the-most-important-leadership-competencies-according-to-leaders-around-the-world

[25] Training Industry – What People Want in a Leader: How Do You Measure Up: https://trainingindustry.com/magazine/mar-apr-2020/what-people-want-in-a-leader-how-do-you-measure-up/

[26] The Guardian – Male + 54 + Oxbridge or Harvard educated = average company CEO: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jul/29/male-54-oxbridge-harvard-average-ceo

[27] Crimson Education – How to Become a CEO: A Guide for Aspiring High School Students: https://www.crimsoneducation.org/uk/blog/become-a-ceo

[28] IMD – 5 challenges facing insider CEOs – and how to overcome them: https://www.imd.org/research-knowledge/leadership/articles/5-challenges-facing-insider-ceos-and-how-to-overcome-them

[29] Board Agenda – Companies lean towards hiring CEOs new to the C-suite: https://boardagenda.com/2022/11/17/companies-lean-towards-hiring-ceos-new-to-the-c-suite/

[30] Staffing 2 Industry – UK – CEO TURNOVER FALLS TO 10% AS INTERNAL CANDIDATES ARE PROMOTED: ROBERT HALF: https://www2.staffingindustry.com/eng/Editorial/Daily-News/UK-CEO-turnover-falls-to-10-as-internal-candidates-are-promoted-Robert-Half-50249

[31] Management Today – What does the ‘average’ FTSE 100 CEO look like: https://www.managementtoday.co.uk/does-average-ftse-100-ceo-look-like/leadership-lessons/article/1431077

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