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On shaky ground

Dec 22, 20034 mins
Cisco SystemsIBMWi-Fi

Our annual reader survey reveals a decline in vendor CEO power – with one man the exception.

While Cisco CEO John Chambers kept his hold on the No. 1 spot in this year’s annual Powerometer survey (his since 2000), the real power story is Dell’s Michael Dell. He stands out as the only CEO who maintained his year-over-year Power Rating,while climbing the ranks.

Dell leapfrogged IBM CEO Sam Palmisano to grab the No. 4 rank, up from No. 6 in 2002. Dell always runs a tight ship, and network executives have faith that the man will continue to succeed.

But other bright spots were rare, although eight CEOs (40%) did climb in rank, determined by slotting the Power Ratings from high to low. (For details on how we conducted the Powerometer survey, see “How we did it“.) Six (30%) declined in rank, while three (15%) held steady. Three had no comparative 2002 results, having taken over as CEO this year.

HP CEO Carly Fiorina and Nortel CEO Frank Dunn join Dell as the biggest climbers, each moving up two spots. After finessing the Compaq acquisition, Fiorina consolidated her might when former Compaq CEO Michael Capellas left his position as president of the merged company to take on MCI’s leadership.

In 2001, as leader of Compaq, Capellas ranked No. 17, with a Power Rating of 55.2. This year, as MCI CEO, he landed at No. 20, his Power Rating at 36.

IBM’s Palmisano is an odd power duck. He fell in rank and received a lower Power Rating despite keeping financials strong and development efforts focused at the No. 1 Network World 200 company. Respondents nicked him almost two full Power Rating points – placing him at No. 5 compared with No. 4 in 2002. His camera-shy stance is keeping him a virtual unknown, even a year after taking over as chairman (and about a year and a half after becoming CEO) of one of the world’s most-watched companies.

Sun CEO Scott McNealy, hardly an unknown, also saw his power dwindle in 2003. This no doubt results from Sun’s continued financial doldrums, thanks to rising competition from less-expensive Linux machines, among other threats.

With corporate scandals still fresh in their minds, respondents remain gun shy on CEO power. “Got power?” respondents seemed to ask. “Prove it.


In our annual Powerometer survey, readers get a chance to rate CEO power on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most powerful. In their minds, the power of all but one CEO has declined this year.
RankPower Rating
20032002CEO20032002Change% change
11Cisco’s John Chambers69.772.1-2.4-3.4%
22Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer68.569.4-0.9-1.3%
33Intel’s Craig Barrett59.463.5-4.1-6.4%
46Dell’s Michael Dell58.158.100
54IBM’s Sam Palmisano57.959.8-1.9-3.1%
67Oracle’s Larry Ellison53.557.7-4.2-7.3%
79HP’s Carly Fiorina52.653.5-0.9-1.6%
8N/A*AT&T’s David Dorman50.2N/AN/AN/A
95Sun’s Scott McNealy49.058.4-9.4-16.1%
1011Verizon’s Ivan Seidenberg47.050.0-3.0-6.0%
1113Nortel’s Frank Dunn46.849.7-2.9-5.8%
12103Com’s Bruce Claflin44.750.7-6.0-11.9%
1312EMC’s Joe Tucci43.949.7-5.8-11.6%
1415SBC’s Ed Whitacre43.346.5-3.2-6.9%
15N/A*Sprint’s Gary Forsee42.2N/AN/AN/A
1614CA’s Sanjay Kumar42.248.0-5.8-12.1%
1718BellSouth’s Duane Ackerman41.744.4-2.7-6.0%
1819Qwest’s Richard Notebaert37.439.2-1.8-4.6%
1917Novell’s Jack Messman37.444.9-7.5-16.7%
20N/A*MCI’s Michael Capellas36.0N/AN/AN/A

N/A = new to list this year; was not CEO of the company when last year’s survey was taken.

* C. Michael Armstrong ranked No. 8 in 2002

*** John Sidgmore ranked No. 20 in 2002

** Bill Esrey ranked No. 16 in 2002

Power Ratings, rounded to the nearest tenth, were rounded to the nearest hundredth to break ties. Forsee’s rating: 42.23; Kumar’s, 42.18; Notebaert’s, 37.39; and Messman’s 37.37.


Several CEOs climbed the ranks, but Dell CEO Michael Dell did so while maintaining his Power Rating from 2002.
RankCEORank increase over 2002
46Dell’s Michael Dell2
79HP’s Carly Fiorina2
1113Nortel’s Frank Dunn2
67Oracle’s Larry Ellison1
1011Verizon’s Ivan Seidenberg1
1415SBC’s Ed Whitacre1


All CEOs (save Dell’s Michael Dell) experienced a decline in their Power Ratings, yet these six also lost rank.
RankCEOChange in 2003 Power RatingRank decrease over 2002
1917Novell’s Jack Messman-16.7%2
95Sun’s Scott McNealy-16.1%4
1614CA’s Sanjay Kumar-12.1%2
12103Com’s Bruce Claflin-11.9%2
1312EMC’s Joe Tucci-11.6%1
54IBM’s Sam Palmisano-3.1%1