Chairman and CEO, GE
General Electric's chief executive is powerful for many reasons, but here's one that's often overlooked: the company's AAA credit rating. Only six U.S. industrial corporations hold that credential, and it gives GE a huge competitive advantage in the finance-related businesses that bring in most of its profit. It also helps the company sell its big-ticket products - jet engines, industrial turbines, CT scanners, locomotives, and so forth - by offering financing that competitors can't beat. Add a century of experience in developing the world's best managers and management practices, and GE becomes a very tough organization to catch up with or oppose.
As if running a company like that didn't make him powerful enough, Immelt is also chairman of the Business Council, the group of top-tier CEOs that influences government policy, and on the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. --Geoff Colvin