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Who’s The Best?

Clemenceau once awarded the Legion of Honor to a business magnate whose only claim was his large contribution to the …

Clemenceau once awarded the Legion of Honor to a business magnate whose only claim was his large contribution to the French prime minister’s political funds. Pinning on the decoration, Clemenceau said, “Sir, you wanted the Legion of Honor. Here it is. Now all you have to do is deserve it.”

As we approach the 12th year of our Chief Executive of the Year award, it is worth restating that although we metaphorically pin the decoration, it is our readers who determine who deserves to be pinned. From its inception, the selection process has been peer-driven. In this month’s issue, you will find a ballot (reproduced at right) along with suggested criteria to nominate a fellow CEO to be considered for 1997’s Chief Executive of the Year award. The award seeks to honor a current chief executive for outstanding long-term performance running a public or private for-profit enterprise with at least $500 million in annual turnover. The individual and his or her team should be a beacon of managerial excellence. Previous winners are not eligible to be nominated again.

I urge you to take a moment to fill out this ballot, noting the reasons for your choice. This is critical, since the selection committee, our panel of CEO judges (see page 6), is strongly guided by your views. Candidates who might never have come to the judges’ attention are given equal scrutiny along with better-known individuals. (And it keeps the process honest.)

I am always delighted when the less media-visible CEOs are catapulted into the list of 10 finalists. There are many true performers whose efforts deserve wider recognition. Today, everyone is familiar with Nucor, but 12 years ago, it was a semi-obscure mini-steel mill. Back then, I remember a few judges confessing that they were unfamiliar with the scrappy outfit-which at the time barely made the sales cutoff-but they were fascinated to learn about the company when it made the first list of finalists. In 1987, the year when Emerson Electric CEO Chuck Knight was anointed, one CEO selection committee member asked us if we were concerned that neither the company nor its CEO were a “household name.” Not at all, we averred. Better an obscure honoree valued by his peers than a brand-name candidate whose performance is in doubt.

Nor is the Chief Executive of the Year award restricted to U.S. CEOs. As a practical matter, most of CE’s North American readers are more familiar with their hemispheric colleagues, but with the increasingly globalized economy, we trust this ultimately will change outlooks. Excellence knows no single flag-nor, for that matter, gender.

So please make certain we hear from you. Take a moment to fill out the nominating ballot-or if you’ve misplaced it-send us a note or fax at (212) 687-8456 giving us your favorite choice.

About J.P. Donlon

J.P. Donlon
J.P. Donlon is Editor Emeritus of Chief Executive magazine.