With the passing of my dear friend Stephen R. Covey, I have been taking some time to consider many of the greatest business leaders who are wielding strong influence on the business world we live in today.
I'd like to present my personal top 10 list of the people I consider most influential in terms of innovative thinking, focus on customers, and their desire to serve the less-fortunate, which is a strong and continual interest of mine.
Without further ado and in no particular order, I present to you my personal Top 10:
1. Jeff Bezos, Amazon – Jeff Bezos is a pioneer in world of internet commerce, and was instrumental in defining this space that is now defining many aspects of the internet world. It is Jeff Bezos who innovated the concept of “predictive analytics”–recommending products to customers based on search history and buying habits. Whether you like the concept or you hate it, the idea has made online commerce more profit rich and efficient, and is making online shopping a better experience for consumers throughout the world.
2. Anne Mulcahy, Xerox – Anne turned things around when her company faced a financial crisis. Yes, I can directly relate. You can read about some of my adventures at Fishbowl here. Anne never aspired to the role of CEO, but neither did she shy away from the opportunity to lead when elected by the board of Xerox in 2001. During her tenure she was required to reduce the company’s workforce by 30% and later eliminated the entire desktop portion of Xerox. For her courageous execution in the face of adversity Chief Executive Magazine named her CEO of the Year in 2008 and U.S. News & World Report named her one of America’s Best Leaders. Forbes acknowledged Anne as one of the world’s most influential women in 2005 and 2009.
3. Brad Smith, Intuit, one of the world’s largest and most successful financial software companies. Intuit, of course, is maker of the QuickBooks accounting software we have integrated with our Fishbowl Inventory software. Even as a company of nearly $4B in revenue with a market cap of approximately $16.5B, Intuit continues to operate like a collection of startups. Brad has fostered a culture where nearly 8,000 employees are allowed to take risks and to grow by learning from success and failure.
4. Howard Schultz, Starbucks – From his upbringing in a poor family in the Bronx to an athletic scholarship and eventually the head of Starbucks, Howard Schultz is a consummate example of courage, hard work, and the ability to achieve the American dream. Even in the glow of his own successes, Howard is also interested in investing in others’ success and continues to invest actively in other business ventures, such as eBay.
5. Larry Page, Google – Larry Page is another example of a businessperson who can persevere any challenge. Larry and his company have faced much criticism and received ample praise over the years for his company’s actions. But in the midst of the storm, he has never let what others think sway him from pursuing the course for his company that he considers the best.
6. Tim Cook, Apple – Steve Jobs is a hard act to follow, but thus far, Tim Cook is doing a tremendous job. Rather than attempt to match the consumer-facing innovations Steve Jobs had been known for, Tim Cook is forging into the future with his own new advances, such as Apple’s newest innovative inventory management techniques.
7. Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo – Indra Nooyi, another of Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women, has not only led her company to record financial results but is making strides to move PepsiCo in a healthier direction, leading the courageous charge to shed traditional fast food properties and to replace them with initiatives to supply healthier foods. She is deeply caring and committed as a senior executive. She is a fun-loving executive as well—she played lead guitar for an all-woman rock band in college, loved to play cricket, and is known to sing karaoke and perform at corporate gatherings to this day. Yes, I have been known to relate to her fun-loving spirit as a senior executive as well.
8. Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway – He is a deeply conservative trader during the times that everyone around him is moving from one extreme to the other to the tune of huge losses and gains. Warren Buffett is a perfect example of patience, proving that slow and steady generally wins the business race. (Although I continue to press my own desire to spur Fishbowl’s inventory software business to race!)
9. Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group – Anyone who owns more than 400 companies and is worth billions of dollars is clearly doing many things right. I admire Richard Branson’s tenacity, and I admire his personal brand—so much so, that when my paired leadership partner, Mary Michelle Scott, and I recently traveled to Australia with several of our team in our launch of Fishbowl Australia, we made the effort and kept the commitment to fly with Virgin Airlines every step of the way.
10. Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation – Rupert Murdoch is a self-made and hard driven Australia-born head of an American publishing dynasty, as the founder, chairman and CEO of News Corporation. He continues to work unbelievably hard at an age when most would have retired long ago. In the midst of accusation and scandal he’s needed to find new strength to face the accusation of bribery, corruption and hacking by subsidiary firms. This news is still breaking, as Rupert resigns from the boards of several of the subsidiary companies involved. Regardless of the outcome, the work ethic and sheer tenacity Rupert Murdoch has shown in the face of adversity continues to serve as an example to all.
Collectively, these 10 individuals are my own “living legends” who exemplify leadership strength. Who are your examples, and why? I look forward to hearing your additions and your feedback on this illustrious list.
Additional reporting provided by Mary Michelle Scott, Fishbowl President.