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The Best (and Worst) CEOs. Ever. (

llustration by Steve Brodner for Portfolio published an interesting section on CEO’s on April 22, 2009 where they created lists of the 20 best and worst CEOs ever. (The Best (and Worst) CEOs. Ever.) While it’s entertaining, it’s also a valuable exercise in identifying who made the list and why. From the website:

But it’s an argument worth starting. So we put together a panel of business-school professors to help us come up with a list of the 20 Best American CEOs of all time. Ford came out on top. We also ranked the 20 worst, including six men who helped make today’s economy stink worse than Exit 13 on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Part of the debate is deciding what makes a great CEO—some elusive mix of results, creativity, and character. “The great ones are those who left notable innovations,” says Peter Capelli, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Most on our list fit that description: Steve Jobs with the Mac and iPhone, Walt Disney with animation. Warren Buffett may not be much of an innovator, but he is a great philosopher—the business Buddha. We think that counts.

The 20 Best CEOs List is topped by Henry Ford and Lou Gerstner coming in at 5 as the top executive currently alive. Not surprisingly, the vast majority on the 20 Worst CEOs List are still alive with Lehman Brothers’ Dick Fuld identified as the worst of the worst.

Make sure you check out the sidebars Perks Gone Wild and The CEO BFF by Michelle Leder for more evidence of CEO culture out of control.

Finally, have some fun with the interactive feature where you can play your favorite CEO’s against each other to get your own best and worst through March Madness-like brackets which they call the CEO Hall of Fame (or Shame). Who’s your winner and loser?

About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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