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Seeing Over the Next Hill

For those of you who are critics of the mainstream media, this issue of Chief Executive represents pure, unfiltered communication. We are allowing the very best minds in the corporate and academic worlds to communicate directly and at length with you, our readers.Fred Smith of FedEx, Pradeep Khosla of Carnegie Mellon, Daniel Vasella of Novartis, …

For those of you who are critics of the mainstream media, this issue of Chief Executive represents pure, unfiltered communication. We are allowing the very best minds in the corporate and academic worlds to communicate directly and at length with you, our readers.

Fred Smith of FedEx, Pradeep Khosla of Carnegie Mellon, Daniel Vasella of Novartis, Hank Greenberg of AIG, Jack Messman of Novell, Jerry Greenberg of Sapient, Craig Barrett of Intel, Art Collins of Medtronic, Jeff Sonnenfeld of Yale and Larry Johnston of Albertsons have all personally taken the time to articulate what they think are top issues that you face in 2005.

How to improve security in an uncertain era is one major theme and another is the need for CEOs to engage in international issues, ranging from helping the developing world emerge economically to maintaining stability on the Korean peninsula. Open-source software is emerging as a viable option for companies and the concept of outsourcing is undergoing a rethinking. The struggle to achieve the highest standards of corporate governance and greater diversity will obviously continue.

Increasingly, it seems, CEOs will have to address social and political issues if they want to run successful businesses. The era of essentially ignoring government as a backward, narrow-minded nuisance must end because of rising health care costs, a poor educational system, a hostile regulatory and legal climate and other trends. In issue after issue, it’s going to require business and government cooperation to solve fundamental problems.

One of the most important traits of the best thinkers is that they are forward-looking and not consumed with the various fashions of the moment. That’s hard to do in today’s Internet-intensive, 24/7, SEC, Eliot Spitzer, CNBC environment. To be able to see beyond today’s events to focus on the longer-term trends is truly a gift. It’s sometimes described as the ability to see over the next hill or around the next curve.

Part of the ability to do that flows from how one organizes one’s time. Many CEOs are too booked and organized and choreographed. You don’t have time to think. So make a point to carve out some time to spend with this special issue of Chief Executive. Your New Year will be better for it.

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THIS IS YOUR LAST CALL. If you believe you know someone, or know of someone, who deserves to be CEO of the Year, the deadline for making your nomination is Dec. 31. Go to http://www.ceoballot.com/nom_form.asp. (It’s so simple that even I could figure it out.) Our judging session to pick the 20th CEO of the Year will be held Feb. 10, 2005. Speak now or forever hold your ballot!

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