Honor Roll

Marshall Louis-Alexandre Berthier, Napoleon’s chief of staff, once recommended to the emperor an able officer for promotion to general of [...]

May 1 1994 by JP Donlon


Marshall Louis-Alexandre Berthier, Napoleon’s chief of staff, once recommended to the emperor an able officer for promotion to general of division. Napoleon listened impassively to his chief’s recitation of the candidate’s talents and campaign accomplishments, but cut him off with, “All well and good, but is he lucky?” Luck to Napoleon did not mean mere chance but an ability to capitalize on good fortune and to minimize the bad.

As the nominations for 1994 Chief Executive of the Year draw to a close, one is struck by the fact that each of the leading contenders thus far (see list) has experienced both good and bad fortune over his career. Correlation of the nature of that fortune, or as Napoleon might have said, their luck in dealing with it, I leave to our selection committee. Our College of Cardinals will collectively determine which of the 10 most frequently nominated candidates will be this year’s honoree.

Readers will no doubt recognize a number of familiar names on this year’s list of finalists. Perennial finalists include Wal-Mart’s David Glass, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Nucor’s Ken Iverson, followed by more recent favorites Southwest Airlines’ Herb Kelleher and. Caterpillar’s Don Fites. Allied Signal’s Larry Bossidy, Chrysler’s Bob Eaton, Eastman Kodak’s George Fisher, and General Motors’ Jack Smith are new nominees.

Since the peer-driven award process was launched in 1986 to recognize a business leader who would be a beacon to others, we have never had the experience of a judge also being nominated as a finalist-until now.

Compaq’s Eckhard Pfeiffer is both new to the selection committee and a new finalist. As such, he has exempted himself from the judges meeting that will decide the final choice. Born in Germany, Eckhard is also the first non-U.S. CEO ever to be nominated for the honor. In future, I hope readers nominate other worthy international candidates.

Excellence in leadership knows no national, political, or gender boundary.

Ultimately, our goal is to widen the universe so the Chief Executive of the Year is not merely a North American honor but an international one.