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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 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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