Charlene Wheeless, principal VP, global corporate affairs, Bechtel: Power List 2016

2016 rank: 27

If you find yourself in a meeting with Charlene Wheeless, you can expect a very pleasant experience — as long as you know your stuff. If you don’t, she won’t degrade or humiliate you. But rest assured, she will very quickly zero in on whatever detail you don’t quite have nailed down. She will then drill into it — politely — until she is satisfied she understands it.

And that is how Charlene has come to lead communications at one of the world’s great companies — an engineering-dominated company no less.

Charlene is driven, but always composed; incisive, but always personable; analytical, but always humanistic. She greets work and life with a blend of determination and grace, inspiring respect rather than commanding it.

How Charlene manages to oversee global corporate affairs for Bechtel without sacrificing devotion to her successful husband and two daughters is a secret only she knows. Considering you may receive an email from her at any time of day, part of the answer has to be that she rarely sleeps. Another possibility is that she has discovered the fountain of intelligence, charm, wit, and fortitude.

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