The 100 most powerful executives in corporate America: we identify the best and brightest leaders in business and industry.

Author:Alleyne, Sonia
Position:SPECIAL REPORT - Cover story
 
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OUR NATION HAS OFFICIALLY BEEN IN A RECESSION FOR roughly a year--one already characterized as the most brutal in decades. At press time, 10 million Americans were out of work--6.1% of whites, 11.2 % of blacks. Moreover, the financial services and automotive sectors, to name two industries, require billions in taxpayer dollars to stay afloat. Yet in this midst of this strained economy, BLACK ENTERPRISE has decided to spotlight the extraordinary achievements of a cadre of top professionals--our 100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America.

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During these times, we saw fit to identify such talent because it will be their individual and collective leadership and intellect that will help preserve, expand, and transform global business for years to come. "Delivering in good times is critical," offers Adriane Brown, president and CEO of Honeywell Transportation Systems, "but the true test is how you lead when market conditions are changing rapidly."

The altered landscape will undoubtedly force a new set of strategies for productivity. As author Scott McKain outlines in his new book, The Collapse of Distinction: Creating Differentiation in a Cluttered Marketplace (Thomas Nelson; $24.99), the challenge won't be how to build a better mousetrap, but knowing whether you need the apparatus at all. "As companies strive for greater efficiency, they will begin eliminating roles, organizational layers, and shifting supplier relationships," explains Joe Watson, management consultant and author of Without Excuses: Unleash the Power of Diversity to Build Your Business (St. Martin's Press; $24.95). "This will translate into fewer opportunities to lead/manage within a company." Watson says such scarcity will dramatically increase competition not only in the marketplace but the workplace as well. "The ability to manage conflict within the 'scarcity economy' will be the skill set that sets apart those who thrive versus those who are fighting to survive."

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With these changing dynamics--and despite the fact that some believe the Obama presidency will level the playing field-black executives will continue to contend with fierce political battles and, in some cases, deal with the same issues of racism. But Watson believes every challenge brings opportunities. "The key is to deliver the results. In a downturn as severe as our current one, the company will not care what color or gender you are," he says. "The sole corporate interest will be in your ability to drive results and exceed expectations."

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Indeed, managing through challenging times will shape new models for success--and the men and women on the following pages are best positioned to lead the way.

--Additional reporting by Brittany Hutson

SELECTION CRITERIA

* Each candidate was selected from among the highest ranking executives within his or her corporation, managing national and global businesses. These men and women are CEOs, CFOs, COOs, or heads of major divisions that significantly contribute to their company's revenues, or officers or members of their company's executive committees. Other titles may include president, general manager, executive vice president, senior vice president, or another top-ranking position with significant management responsibility and budget authority. Executives holding the position of general counsel were not considered.

* Each executive holds a senior management position with one of the top 1,000 publicly traded companies or an international corporation with gross revenues of at least $1 billion.

* Each of the executives has revenue-generating or operating responsibilities, or holds a position critical to product development and the bottom line. None of the top executives has primary responsibility for staff functions in areas such as public affairs, community affairs, or diversity.

* Each has had significant influence in his or her company and industry.

CHIEF EXECUTIVES

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* KENNETH I. CHENAULT

Chairman & CEO

American Express

Power Move: Chenault leads executive management teams, including the Asset Management Group, Asset Management International, and the Portfolio Management Group. In 2004 Chenault oversaw an agreement with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to issue Amex credit cards in China.

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* STEVEN A. DAVIS

Chairman & CEO

Bob Evans Farms Inc.

Power Move: Davis oversees Bob Evans Farms Inc., a publicly held restaurant and food products company with sales of approximately $1.5 billion. He reversed a three-year trend of negative same-store sales at the restaurants with two consecutive years of positive comp-store growth.

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* JAMES H. DEGRAFFENREIDT JR.

Chairman & CEO of WGL Holdings Inc.

Washington Gas

Power Move: DeGraffenreidt is responsible for the performance of Washington Gas, serving more than 1 million customers. During his 20 years, he has helped transform it into a winner in an industry that has experienced dramatic changes.

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* ROGER W. FERGUSON JR.

President & CEO

TIAA-CREF

Power Move: Ferguson oversees the retirement system for 3.4 million employees of more than 15,000 institutions that have more than $435 billion in assets under management.

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* RODNEY O'NEAL

CEO & President

Delphi Corp.

Power Move: With the exception of the executive chairman, all seven divisions of Delphi, one of the world's largest makers of auto parts, report to O'Neal. A 17-year veteran at Delphi, O'Neal is responsible for all Delphi operating units, its three regional operations, Sales & Marketing, Global Purchasing, and Logistics. He also oversees the Delphi Strategy Board.

O'Neal also directed the implementation of Delphi's key transformation tenets in 2006, which included these key areas: modifying the company's labor agreements and concluding negotiations, streamlining Delphi's product portfolio, transforming the salaried workforce, and devising a workable solution to the company's pension funding situation.

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* GARY MCCULLOUGH

President & CEO Career

Education Corp.

Power Move: McCullough has led CEC through substantial challenges, focusing on building a foundation for growth through improved organizational effectiveness and efficiency. He and his executive leadership team have addressed structural issues that impeded short-term financial performance.

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* CLARENCE OTIS JR.

Chairman & CEO

Darden Restaurants

Power Move: Otis maintains a strong values-based culture, developing corporate strategy and driving its execution; strengthening enterprise leadership; building and deploying organizational resources; ensuring industry-leading consumer and workforce insight capabilities; and capturing new business growth opportunities.

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* JOHN W. THOMPSON

Chairman & CEO

Symantec Corp.

Power Move: Under Thompson's leadership, Symantec has grown from a small consumer software publisher to a global leader in providing security, storage, and systems management solutions to help businesses and consumers secure and manage their information.

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* RONALD WILLIAMS

Chairman & CEO

Aetna

Power Move: Under Williams' leadership, Aetna has sought to make a positive impact on healthcare in America. Since joining Aetna, Williams has focused on creating innovation in the industry, especially through information technology, and bringing new levels of transparency to the healthcare system.

DIVISION CHIEF EXECUTIVES

* CRAIG ARNOLD

CEO, Fluid Power Group

Eaton Corp.

Power Move: Arnold is responsible for Eaton's hydraulics, aerospace, filtration, and general products businAesses. He also serves as a member of the corporation's Office of the COO, with responsibility for the Asia-Pacific region. Arnold has global experience in management, e-business, and marketing.

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* FRANK M. CLARK

Chairman & CEO, ComEd

Exelon

Power Move: Clark oversees ComEd, the largest electric utility in Illinois and a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corp. He is responsible for ComEd's $2 billion combined operating, maintenance, and capital budgets.

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* JOHN J. HARRIS

Executive VP, Chairman & CEO, Nestle Waters

Nestle

Power Move: Harris oversees 32,000 employees and operates with $8.9 billion in sales. He oversees acquisitions, new products, international partnerships, and product expansion into places such as China, the Middle East, and Africa.

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* DEAN SEAVERS

President & CEO, GE Security

General Electric

Power Move: Seavers manages all aspects of GE Security worldwide including profit and loss, growth, and business development. Seavers has overseen more than 24 acquisitions in his position with GE Security, a supplier of security and life safety technologies with operations in more than 35 countries.

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* DMITRI STOCKTON

President & CEO, Central & Eastern European Strategic Business, GE Money

General Electric

Power Move: Stockton oversees all international banks and bank joint ventures for GE Capital. As of 2007, Stockton has grown net income for the unit from $225 million to $944 million.

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* ADRIANE M. BROWN

President & CEO, Honey well Transportation Systems

Honeywell International

Power Move: Brown believes the true test of leadership is how you lead when market conditions are rapidly changing. "We know that 2009 will continue to be challenging." she says. Brown is focused on driving results by creating an environment where employees can thrive. She believes treating people with dignity encourages them to step outside their comfort zone. Under Brown's guidance for four years, her division has annual revenues of $4.5 billion.

* JAMES E. SWEETNAM

CEO, Truck Group

Eaton Corp.

Power Move: Sweetnam has corporatewide responsibility for Eaton's operations in South America and for the Quality Institute and the Business...

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