May 1 1997 by JP Donlon
“The very essence of leadership,” former Notre Dame president Ted Hesburgh once said, “is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” Identifying and selecting a Chief Executive of the Year from the many talented and thoughtful CEOs in business today is like trying to choose a single instrument amidst a chorus of certain trumpets.
Each year we ask our readers to nominate a current CEO running a for-profit enterprise of at least $500 million in annual turnover. Since its inception in 1986, CE’s annual Chief Executive of the Year award is a celebration of what is best in business leadership, honoring an individual recognized by his peers for standing out both in terms of performance delivered, and in the vision and values he or she imparts to others.
Nominations are gathered from chairmen, presidents, vice chairmen, CEOs, and board directors, who were asked to recognize a peer who has excelled in:
- demonstrating leadership skills that enabled his or her company to compete successfully in international markets;
- reinvigorating a mature company, exceeding industry norms for financial performance, and delivering value for shareholders and customers;
- turning around an ailing enterprise, even if it required a reverse of original strategy;
- implementing and managing technological innovation;
- skillfully guiding a corporation through good times and bad and demonstrating excellence under varying conditions; and
- inspiring others, through commitment
- and confidence, to accomplish more than they may have thought possible.
The 10 most frequently nominated individuals become finalists. Their performance dossiers are submitted to our selection committee comprised of current or former CEOs (see page 10)-which meets to review the candidates. Over the years we have developed a review and selection process that permits our “college of cardinals” to smoothly but methodically prioritize the candidates’ suitability to achieve a unanimous selection before the white smoke goes up. Our judges’ decision is final.
This year’s finalists are perhaps the most diverse group in recent memory, including candidates in high technology, traditional manufacturing and defense, information systems, consumer marketing, retail, and financial services. I am encouraged by the fact that, each year, more non-U.S.
CEOs, such as ABB’s Percy Barnevik; AXA’s Claude Bebear and Nestle’s Helmut Maucher, are nominated. Although none garnered sufficient votes to rank in the first 10, clearly our readers recognize excellence knows no political border. Many readers also put forward past Chief Executives of the Year, namely GE’s Jack Welch, Coca-Cola’s Roberto Goizueta and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. However, since past honorees are ineligible, only the above finalists are being considered.
Soon our judges will meet in closed session, and their choice will be revealed in our July cover story. Stay tuned.