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.
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.
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. HeSørensen 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.
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.
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.
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