Daniel Akerson
Daniel Akerson
Company: General Motors
Fortune 500 Rank: 5

Akerson graduated in 1970 from the U.S. Naval Academy, where he earned a B.S. in engineering, and served in the Navy for five years. That experience influenced his life in business, he says. "Military service taught me a lot that helped my business career: to make hard decisions, to lead by example, to act with integrity, and to take good care of your people."

And while his experience in the armed forces was invaluable, he says that it reinforced a framework he had already learned. "I first learned these values from my father and uncles who saw action in Europe and Asia in World War II," Akerson says. "Their service inspired me."

The White House put Daniel Akerson in charge of General Motors in 2009, as the carmaker was trying to get back on its feet after its bailout. Akerson then became CEO in September 2010, two months before it launched a record $23 billion IPO.

By Shelley DuBois, writer-reporter - Last updated May 07 2012: 9:53 AM ET