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The 10 Best Performing CEOs Show What It Takes to Be a Great Manager

The 10 Best Performing CEOs Show What It Takes to Be a Great Manager

Often we look upon CEOs merely as the top dogs of organizations who take away the spotlight and the largest share of the rewards, without actually doing anything themselves. They’re thought of as crooked and tyrannical people who focus solely on the benefits for themselves and their organizations without any empathy for their subordinates and customers. Very little of this is true, however. CEOs need to work much harder than any of the subordinates and their job is constantly under scrutiny, more so than anyone else. Of course, they receive their fair share of rewards for this, but not everybody can mentally, physically and spiritually handle being a CEO, although almost everyone aspires to be one.

What does it take to be a CEO, and a very good one? Harvard Business Review released the list of top 100 best performing CEOs in the world for 2014. Now, let’s take a look at the top 10 on the list to discover what unique qualities they possess that set them apart from everyone else. We hope it will serve as something to look up to for all the upcoming CEOs and CTOs of the world.

1. Jeffrey Bezos (Amazon)

After the passing away of Steve Jobs, Jeffrey Bezos has become the leading philosopher/CEO in the tech world. The founder of Amazon.com has had a great role in the growth of e-commerce. He was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1964. He graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and electrical engineering. He started Amazon.com in June of 1995, initially as an online book store. The start-up saw remarkable growth, sales reached $20,000 a week within the first two months.

An important leadership lesson we can learn from him is: “If you want to be inventive, you have to be willing to fail.” In the early days of Amazon, they used to hire editors to write book and music reviews. Later they tried to focus on customer opinions only. This didn’t produce desired results but it was an opportunity for them to learn something. They later started using both. We should never be afraid of failing if we really want to create something new.

2. John Martin (Gilead Sciences)

John C. Martin is the CEO of Gilead Sciences, a bio-pharmaceutical company that focuses on research. He was born in 1952. He holds an MBA from Golden Gate University and a Ph.D from the University of Chicago, but his Bachelor’s degree is in chemical engineering from Purdue University and thus, he is a chemist at the soul.

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What is inspiring about Martin is that he has made it to the top in business, although he is primarily a scientist. It’s generally believed that scientists do not make good managers, but Martin has challenged the norm successfully and inspires others who aren’t primarily educated in business to do the same.

3. John Chambers (Cisco Systems)

John Chambers, the CEO and chairman of Cisco Systems, was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1949. He started his career at IBM in 1976 as a salesman after obtaining an MBA from Indiana University. His rise from an IBM salesman to CEO of Cisco Systems, one of the largest tech companies in the world, has been an incredible journey.

In an interview with The New York Times, Chambers was asked, “What are the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned?” Chambers replied, “People think of us as a product of our successes. I’d actually argue that we’re a product of the challenges we faced in life.” This is a very important leadership lesson to learn. He frequently quotes Jack Welch, “It takes major setbacks and overcoming those to make a great company.” It’s very important to know that what is needed is not to never fall but to rise every time after falling.

4. David Pyott (Allergan)

Allergan Inc. is a leading health care company, and lot of the credit for that goes to its CEO, David Pyott. Since taking over the Irvine-based medical aesthetics giant in 1998, he has turned it into a five-billion-dollar-a-year enterprise. Pyott was born in 1953 in London to Scottish parents. He has received an MBA from London Business School, an MS from University College London and an MA from the University of Edinburgh.

The essence of his leadership can be encapsulated in his quote, “I never saw the next five steps. I only saw the next one.” Most of us plan for several years down the road, and quite pointlessly. We plan the future assuming certain things to happen at a point in future. But we might actually never reach that point. So remember this wise man’s words and plan for and work one step at a time.

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5. David Simon (Simon Property Group)

David Simon has served as CEO of Simon Property Group for 17 years, and has been with the company for 22 years. He was born in 1962 the son of Jewish-American real estate developer Melvin Simon. He received his MBA from Columbia University and a BS degree from Indiana University. Simon Property Group is the largest real estate company in the U.S.

Simon led the efforts to make the group public with nearly $1 billion initial public offering (IPO) in 1993 and the company has never had to look back. Back then, it was the largest real estate stock offering. What Simon inspires in us is to challenge the status quo and go beyond the point where anyone has ventured before.

6. Lars Rebien Sørensen (Novo Nordisk)

Novo Nordisk is a Danish company established in 1923 whose principal aim was to produce insulin for the Danish population. Now the company exports insulin all over the world and is an unrivaled leader in its industry. Lars Rebien Sørensen, the CEO, was born in 1954 in Copenhagen. He holds an MSc in Forestry from the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Denmark and a BSc in International Economics from the Copenhagen Business School. Sørensen started with the company in 1982, working in the marketing department. He has served as president and CEO of the company since 2000.

The company under Sørensen’s initiative released a vision statement for the company called the “Novo Nordisk Way”, which very much sums up the values of the company and also how the efficacious CEO manages it. The vision of the company focuses on Scandinavian values, emphasizing individual respect for everyone, social responsibility and a sense of duty towards the environment.

7. Hugh Grant (Monsanto)

Monsanto is a Missouri-based multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation. Since 2003, Hugh Grant has served as the CEO of this company, which was founded way back in 1901. Grant was born in Larkhall, Scotland in 1958. He has received a BSc degree in agricultural zoology and molecular biology from Glasgow University, a MSc. in agriculture from the University of Edinburgh, and an MBA from the International Management Centre in Buckingham. He has been involved with Monsanto since 1981, when he worked in Scotland for the then US-based company.

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In an interview with Leader’s Magazine, on being asked about the key priorities of the company to ensure its stature as leader in the industry, Grant answered, “The leadership I hope we can provide at Monsanto is a focus on the success of farmers.” Grant believes that when the farmers succeed, the company succeeds. A leadership should focus on sustainability and providing something of value to the customers rather than accomplishing a few short-term goals. That way, a company can go on to retain customers and grow step by step.

8. J. Michael Pearson (Valeant Pharmaceuticals)

J. Michael Pearson has served as CEO of the Montreal-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which was founded in 1960, since only January 2014. However, he has led a remarkable rise of the company within the year and is the eighth-best performing CEO as per The Harvard Business Review. Pearson received BS and BSE from Duke University and an MBA from University of Virginia. He worked at McKinsey & Company for 23 years before joined Valeant as CEO in 2008.

Pearson proves that it doesn’t take much to produce useful results if we do things right. Much of his success has depended upon effective measurement of his sales force. Proper monitoring of the growth of sales activities, which directly correspond to meeting of sales objectives and ultimately the yield of business results, has been his principal leadership style.

9. Mark Donegan (Precision Castparts)

Precision Castparts was founded by Joseph B. Cox in 1953. Mark Donegan has served as the CEO of this Oregon-based industrial goods and metal fabrication company for 10 years, having been with the company for 27 years. Aged 57 years old, Donegan joined the company in 1985 from General Electric Company. He earned nearly $9.7 million in 2014.

The leadership of Donegan at this global leader in aerospace manufacturing has focused on acquisitions and discovering ways to increase efficiency. Rather than creating something on their own, the company takes over other companies who have achieved some level of achievements in their target area. Precision, which is one of two Fortune 500 companies in Oregon, recently acquired Titanium metals manufacturer Timet.

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10. William Doyle (PotashCorp)

PotashCorp is the world’s largest fertilizer company in terms of its capacity. William Doyle, the highest earning Canadian CEO, has served as the company’s CEO since 1999. He has planned to retire in July of 2015 and, by then, he will have overseen remarkable growth of the company and enrichment of its shareholders. Doyle was born in 1961 and is a Georgetown University graduate. The 39-year fertilizer industry veteran initially started his career at International Minerals and Chemical Corporation.

PotashCorp has created a document containing core values and a code of conduct for directors, officers, employees and representatives of the company. The document very much summarizes the leadership style of Doyle. One of the metrics for success has been listed as, “The long-term value we create for our shareholders.” Doyle and the company’s aim has been always to provide something valuable and sustainable for the shareholders as well as the customers of the company.

Featured photo credit: KRISTOFFER TRIPPLAAR/SIPA/AP IMAGES via img.qz.com

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Co-Founder, Siplikan Media Group

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

  • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
  • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
  • Say no to all else.
  • Say no again.
  • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
  • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
  • Meditate.
  • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
  • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
  • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
  • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
  • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
  • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

Final Thoughts

These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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