Strong leadership qualities don’t just appear overnight. A lot of learning and development supports any top leader’s progress to the corner office. The CEOs of today’s largest companies have experienced a great deal of successes as well as failures, both personally and professionally. Successful CEOs have learned a great deal about leadership throughout their careers, and their advice is valuable for anyone looking to work their way up in their industry
Check out these five effective tips on leaderships from top CEOs.
Genuine. Not Perfect.
“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.”
– Howard Schultz, Starbucks
“You have to be authentic,” says Howard Schultz, Starbucks’s former CEO and the driving force behind the company’s global dominance. Schultz’s background is one of humble beginnings. A Brooklyn native, Schultz grew up in a public housing project and worked a number of odd jobs to pursue his education at the University of Michigan. Schultz began working at Starbucks as its
marketing director in the early eighties, when it was solely a coffee roaster. When Schultz joined the company, however, he quickly recognized its potential.
In 1987, he acquired the Starbucks brand and its 17 locations from the original founders. Schultz served as Starbucks’s CEO for 24 years spanning two separate tenures, and he was integral in the company’s growth from those 17 outlets into a worldwide phenomenon with an $84 billion market cap. To maintain sustained success and authenticity in a global corporation, Schultz has “built a company based on a set of values and guiding principles that have endured over time.” Schultz’s advice and story are excellent reminders that leaders should be passionate about their work, and that the power behind a brand is its people.
Innovation has no boundaries
“For CEOs today, it’s all about achieving growth and efficiency through innovation. It’s not about product innovation so much anymore as about innovating business models, process, culture, and management.”
– Ginni Rometty, IBM
As one of the few female computer science majors at Northwestern University in the late seventies, IBM CEO Virginia “Ginni” Rometty is no stranger to spearheading change. At the 2012 Most Powerful Women Summit, Rometty explained, “Whatever business you’re in you’ve got to keep moving it to a higher value.” Early in her career, Rometty learned that honing her technical skills wouldn’t be enough to move forward and fulfill her ambitions. She understood that to succeed she needed to “look outward, beyond strictly technical issues,” to “build trust with clients.”
This stance shaped Rometty’s lasting reputation as one of the most client-centric leaders in the tech industry. She firmly believes that a company’s success lies in its irreplicable business model, and that people willing to become better, stronger and smarter are the ones who will continue to grow. Rometty’s personal testimony offers guidance many should take into consideration: “When I took the leap, I built new skills, I built confidence and I increased my value.”. Rometty’s take on building value, both personally and within a business, lies in a commitment to innovation.
Winners demonstrate the possibilities
“Leaders actively change the hand to drive the business. Leaders make change where they see it is needed and actively develop the talent they have on their teams… Leading is not just about managing people. To lead, you have to help people understand where we’re trying to take the company and what their role is in getting it there.”
– Mark Hurd, Oracle
In an interview at Baylor University, Oracle. CEO Mark Hurd spoke on how many of his views on leadership were shaped by his college experiences. Hurd, who attended Baylor as a scholarship athlete on the tennis team, learned to differentiate leadership from management in one of his college courses. He also learned early on the importance of cultivating leaders within an organization as well as a leader’s role in aligning an organization to execute a plan.
Hurd learned the value of time management and organization at Baylor, as he had to balance his duties as a full-time student, competitive athlete and fraternity president. A great deal of Hurd’s leadership education stemmed from his experience at NCR Corporation, where he began his career as a frontline salesperson in 1980. By 2003, Hurd had worked all the way up through the company’s ranks to become its CEO. Today, Hurd has simplified the essentials of leadership to three fundamentals: getting the strategy right, executing that strategy and putting people in the right places. The core of Hurd’s beliefs focuses on the importance of guiding a team to become leaders.
Seize the Moment
“There is nothing like a concrete life plan to weigh you down. Because if you always have one eye on some future goal, you stop paying attention to the job at hand, miss opportunities that might arise, and stay fixedly on one path, even when a better, newer course might have opened up.”
– Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo.
PepsiCo’s first female CEO, Indra Nooyi, was quick to align PepsiCo with new opportunities when she first joined the company in 1994. Nooyi, whose longtime interest in “how things work and how to make them work better” earned her four degrees from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, was quick to recognize the company’s need to shift its strategic focus when she began her role as CEO.
She identified consumers’ growing demand for healthier food and beverages, and she knew that PepsiCo’s focus on soda needed to change. Nooyi developed Performance with Pepsi, which served as the corporation’s guide to adopting healthier options and would remodel the brand into something more influential for the future. In doing so, Nooyi has doubled PepsiCo’s market value since becoming its CEO in 2006. Nooyi’s agile leadership skills helped the company adopt a new vision that propelled them to new heights.
Risk doing nothing
“There is no science in creativity. If you don’t give yourself room to fail, you won’t innovate.”
– Bob Iger, Disney
As a steward for many of the world’s most beloved brands, Disney CEO Bob Iger focuses on three main pillars for success: generating the best creative content possible, fostering innovation and utilizing the latest technology and expanding into new markets around the world. In his many years of involvement with Disney, Iger’s leadership style has often encouraged taking risks. Iger claims that, as CEO, one of his largest responsibilities is to set standards for great quality and experimentation.
He frequently points out that businesses tend to be riskier with their corporate decisions than their decisions regarding personnel, although he feels that greater risks should be taken on the latter. Iger has several notable acquisitions under his belt, including Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, which would never have happened if Iger had been risk-averse. “I’ve learned over the years that while you can’t be dismissive of risk, if you are too focused on it, you don’t get anything done,” said Iger in 2013. “While I’m aware of the risk involved [when making deals], I focus more on opportunity.” Iger’s advice motivates many to accept failure and take more chances with their leadership decisions.
There’s a great deal of advice to consider from today’s successful CEOs. Listening to those who have made an impact is a great motivator to take charge of our own success. Today’s leaders have plenty of wisdom to impart that has been acquired through experience, so take heed when attempting to further your own career.
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