When CEOs meet to evaluate their peers, on what do they base their judgment? In naming Microsoft’s Bill Gates the 1994 Chief Executive of the Year, selecting him from a roster of 10 finalists, members of the selection committee (see photo below) tended to focus on 10 criteria:
- Demonstrable impact on company, industry, business
- Degree of difficulty
- Sustained performance
- People processes
- Benchmarks: customer and shareholder value
- Innovation quotient
- Philosophy: Is there a coherent “higher” purpose?
- CEO respect
Measuring performance against these criteria isn’t an exact science, partly because it’s difficult to compare executives in disparate industries. For example, does a food-industry CEO enjoy a marginal advantage over a computer maker, because international competition is more acute in the latter’s industry? Less ambiguous, however, is the weight given by judges to performance over time. Most feel strongly that a candidate for Chief Executive of the Year must have been in place at the same company for at least five years.
Then there are the intangibles. Mindful that the award is meant to be a beacon of excellence, former F.&M. Schaefer CEO and current Columbia Graduate School of Business Executive-In-Residence Bob Lear casts a glance toward the future. “We are trying to teach our Columbia MBAs to think and act like Bill Gates,” Lear says. “He starts with a reach-ably high vision, then organizes the most current tools and techniques. He makes it work and keeps at it unceasingly.”
Meanwhile, Chief Executive is using Gates’ designation as Chief Executive of the Year as an opportunity to launch a new cover design. Perhaps you might think of it as a “window” on the future.