Editor's Note: Top 25 Consultants

A few of us choose Einstein over Churchill. Others may pick John Lennon over FDR. But very few of us ever exclude Lincoln. It seems Honest Abe never misses a meal. Or at least not when it comes to meals cooked up by this anachronistic question: Which three people from history would you most like to have dinner with? If you have ever answered this question (and who hasn’t?), consider yourself guilty of that all-so-popular sin of people-ranking.

There. Now that we’ve established that we’re all nothing but no-good list mongers, we’d like to take some of you to task for dismissing our Top 25 effort as a frivolous endeavor, whose motivations are not in the best interest of your institution, or as you put it: “We don’t believe in putting any one individual above the institution.”

Please be assured that our Top 25 list is not about Accenture (whose CEO, Joe Forehand, deservingly tops our roster) or about any other “institution” — it’s about “the profession.” And just as a list of historical figures can stir debate and force even the most circumspect among us to share their opinion, our list aspires to do only that and nothing more. Besides, everyone knows that the only true formula for measuring influence resides in a vault deep beneath the editorial offices of BusinessWeek.

This month, we bring to you our annual Top 25 Most Influential Consultants issue, with each listee bearing their own numeric ranking — but we didn’t stop there. In an attempt to make the list somewhat more representative of consulting’s many career paths, we’ve sought to profile people from different parts of the profession’s encampments. Individually, whether a Leader, Big Thinker, Human Capitalist, or Client Pleaser, the consultants on our Top 25 list have distinguished themselves and their firms. Collectively, they energize the profession.

For those of you who still harbor reservations or feel that we are muddying your institution’s good name by profiling your consultants alongside assorted others, here’s a thought: The people who are opening the consulting profession’s next chapter don’t all share the same rank, values, or culture. As John Lennon once wrote: Imagine there’s no country … and the world will be as one.

Don’t tell Lincoln, but the ex-Beatle just ate the last burrito.