Primus Inter Pares
May 1 1996 by JP Donlon
If only selecting presidential candidates were as straightforward as choosing contenders for CE’s Chief Executive of the Year. Each year in the January/February and March issues, we solicit nominations from our readers for this distinguished award that celebrates business’ best in leadership and strategic management. Since the award’s creation in 1986, we have asked our readers-chairmen, presidents, CEOs, and board directors-to nominate a current CEO of a for-profit company with at least $500 million in annual revenue who has exhibited outstanding performance over five or more years.
Readers may consider the following in determining their nominations:
- A CEO whose leadership skills have enabled his or her company to compete successfully in international markets.
- A CEO who has turned around an ailing enterprise, even if it required reversing his or her original strategy.
- A CEO who has reinvigorated a mature company, or otherwise greatly exceeded industry norms.
- A CEO who has best-managed technological innovation-in either product, service, delivery system, or in the company’s delivery of total perceived value to its ultimate customer.
- A CEO who has best-managed a company overall through good times and bad, demonstrating leadership and managerial excellence under varying conditions.
Those most frequently nominated by their peers become our finalists. The list, usually comprising 10 people, is submitted to our selection committee, which meets in the spring to review the candidates. The second stage of the decision process is also peer-driven. Each member of the committee is a current or former CEO. Their collective decision is final; CE has no vote.
I continue to be impressed by how diligently our judges have tried to understand each finalist’s strengths and come to terms with the challenge of comparing different leaders who succeed in vastly different circumstances. To ensure that the process and perspective are kept fresh, members of the selection committee, with the exception of CE “Speaking Out” columnist Bob Lear, generally serve no more than three years.
In addition to the finalists listed at left, three past Chief Executives of the Year-GE’s Jack Welch, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Wal-Mart’s David Glass-figured heavily in the nominations. Since our judges believe past winners should be ineligible, they considered only the remaining finalists. Our judges were impressed with the strong financial performance of the contenders, a diverse group with both high-technology and high-profile consumer companies well-represented. “Each of these guys has done a remarkable job,” says CE judge Don Beall of Rockwell International. We will feature the winner in our July/August issue. Stay tuned.