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Military experience: the right stuff?

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Companies led by chief executives with military experience have beaten the S&P 500 Index over the past three, five and 10 years by up to 20 percentage points, says a study by executive search firm Korn/Ferry International.

Nearly 60 companies on the S&P 500 headed by ex-military returned a 21.3 percent average annual return over three years, compared with 11 percent for companies in the index as a whole.

The study of chiefs who cut their teeth in the armed services also found that they hang longer in the top job— 7.2 years, as opposed to 4.6 years— than nonmilitary CEOs.

Key finding: Both quantitative and qualitative analyses suggest that former military leaders simply stay cooler under fire. Specifically, their deft management of stressful situations in military operations help them perform better in a corporate setting.

Bottom line:While you don’t need military training to shine as a CEO, the study’s sponsor says, it certainly helps.

—Adapted from “Military Experience & CEOs: Is There a Link?” Korn/Ferry International and the Economist Intelligence Unit, www.kornferry.com.

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