The title of CEO is highly coveted by everyone in the employment hierarchy. Everyone wants to live the life of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). This is an individual who ranks the highest in a company. Their main responsibilities include making the most important decisions in the corporation and being the bridge between the board of directors and the corporate operations section. Due to the importance of this title, the CEO gets to enjoy some of the most attractive benefits and conditions in the corporation. They occupy a corner office in the top floor of their company building. They also enjoy a position on the board of directors and may even be the chairperson. The title of CEO can be substituted with company president or even managing director. Over the years, there have been some CEOs who excelled in their roles as leaders of their organizations such that they are highly respected today. They steered their corporations through rough waters until they were safely at the shore of profits. Their exploits were recorded for future generations to learn from them. Here are 10 CEO's that history will remember as great leaders.
From his family name, it is easy to notice that he was the CEO of the Hewlett Packard computer company. David was a firm believer that the CEO is supposed to treat the employees as human beings and not just cogs in the corporate machine. He believed that the people who create wealth have a right to share in it. This was his moral standpoint and the mission with which he led HP. He once sat in a meeting in 1949 among other CEOs. They were discussing how to make their companies more profitable by exploiting their employees' wages and benefits. David could not take it any longer. He stood up, explained that their role as business leaders was to take care of the employees because they were the wealth creators. This opinion alienated him from the other CEO's. Despite being seen as misguided, he went on to lead HP into the technological revolution and the company emerged as a major player in Silicon Valley.
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The name Walton is synonymous with retail store Walmart. This company has the biggest chain of supermarkets in the USA. It gets revenues in billions. It was all built on the enthusiasm and guidance of Sam Walton. He was a man of tremendous charisma. However, he knew that the company would not survive after him based on charisma alone. He knew that he needed to be an operator too. So when other CEO's snubbed the requests of some Brazilian retail businessmen who wanted to learn the American Way of business, Sam gladly welcomed them. The Brazilians thought they were learning from Sam but he was actually learning about South America from them. Sam knew how to use his charisma to seize opportunities. He did so with the vision of expanding his enterprise. He also knew how to set a legacy. That is why he indicated that Walmart should have a target of $125 billion in revenue by the year 2000. His successor David Glass embodied this vision and clocked a revenue stream of $165 billion by that year. Sam Walton built a business that outlived him and exhibited great leadership in his role as CEO.
No one thought that the underrated lawyer who actually thought that he was unqualified for the job could actually save a giant airline company and transform it into the future of air travel. During the World Wars, Boeing was the chief producer of Allied bombers. Their factory in Seattle produced thousands of bombers. However, when the Second World War ended, the board thought that they had lost 90% of their revenue stream. However, Bill saw no loss. This is because his vision for Boeing was bigger than any that his predecessors had. He saw a world class airplane maker, not a bomber specialist. So he led the creation of the Boeing 707, 727, 737 and 747. These were some of the greatest, most profitable business bets in history. Bill Allen had a big vision for his company and he used it to transform air travel forever.
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Courage is not the lack of fear, but the ability to act in spite of it. This is a saying which was coined by Katharine Graham, the CEO of the Washington Post in its formative years in the 1970s. The Washington Post Co. was a company that published a daily newspaper in Washington. It was founded by Katharine's father but was handed to her husband in the hope that he would pass it on to his children. Sadly, he committed suicide in the family home. The paper would most likely now be sold. However, Katharine would have none of that. She held onto it as a steward. With her undying courage, Katharine printed the Pentagon Papers in 1971 exposing government cover-ups in the Vietnam war. She also allowed her journalists to investigate the Watergate Scandal and printed the outcome boldly. Her actions put her at loggerheads with the White House but earned her a spot as one of the greatest CEO's of all time.
Fannie Mae is a popularly known mortgage lender in the USA. In 1981, the company's stock was at an all time low. It was losing approximately $1 million every single day. To save the situation, David Maxwell was promoted out of the executive ranks and made CEO. Not only did David save the company, he made it more profitable than ever before. He sold off over $10 billion in loss-making mortgages. After that, he rebuilt it around a mission of making the American Dream accessible to people who were normally overlooked in mortgages. Examples of these people were immigrants, single-parents and minorities. By adopting this vision, Fannie Mae regained profitability, beat the stock market and made David Maxwell a legend among CEO's.
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Sometimes, you have to fight off the opposition in your company from the inside out. One of the CEO's who fought for the soul of his company was Bob Iger, CEO of Disney. Bob became the CEO of Disney in 2005. He succeeded the former boss Michael Eisner who had been ousted due to an internal company conflict. The transition was difficult for Iger. Many of the executives in the company wanted to grab more power. However, he used swift action to amass majority of the strategic control of the company. He centralized decision-making at Disney. After that, he reconciled management and Roy Disney, a board member. Eventually, he restored the soul of Disney when he acquired Pixar in a $7.4 billion deal. This returned Disney to its animation roots and propelled it to success.
Innovation is a powerful character to have as a leader. This is because you often have to make decisions on your feet. This means that you have to innovate new paths on the go. This is a character that Fred Smith possesses. A former Air Captain in the U.S. Marines, he used his experience flying fighter jets and delivery planes and founded FedEx. By using 14 planes, he was able to develop a system of ground to air package delivery that serviced 25 cities. His idea was simple and strategic. Today, FedEx is the biggest overnight delivery system in the US and has a market capitalization of $31 billion.
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In the 1980's, the CEO of Johnson & Johnson was James Burke. Today, he is regarded as a legend. However, not many know that he is a legend because he averted a crisis instead of letting it happen. Moreover, not many know that his legendary status was caused by his dedication to the Johnson & Johnson credo. Sometime during his leadership, James called 20 of his main executives into a room and placed the Johnson & Johnson credo on the table. With angry ambition, he indicated that they were to follow the credo of having a duty to mothers and all users of Johnson & Johnson products. It was either that or they tear it off and discard it. The executives saw his dedication and stayed true to it when the company pulled $100 million worth of product from the shelves due to a cyanide scare in 1982. James put the consumer first and in this way, became one of the greatest CEO leaders ever.
Indra has been the CEO of Pepsi since 2006 to date. She can easily be regarded as one of the bravest CEOs today. This is because she agreed to lead a company whose main competitor is the behemoth Coca Cola Company. Indra's performance at Pepsi has more than justified her as one of the best CEOs at leadership. Indra was the first female CEO of Pepsi. She earned the role after boosting the company's profits by 72% when she was the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). In 2010, she spearheaded the purchase of the two biggest soda bottlers in America. Moreover, she made Pepsi the largest producer of food and beverages in Russia. She is definitely one of the greatest CEO leaders today.
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His name is literally synonymous with vision. Everyone around the world knows it. He is mentioned in the same breath as the iPhone, iPad and Macintosh computer. The late Steve Jobs was the co-founder and long time CEO of Apple Computer Corporation. He founded it in 1976 alongside his friend Steve Wozniak. In 1984, he presented the Apple Macintosh computer and stunned the world. He was comfortably at the forefront of personal computing. In the subsequent years, Steve would get kicked out of his own company, found another one and gain more success than with his original one. He founded Pixar and gained so much success that he was reinstated as the CEO of his original company. He is credited with innovating and bringing the smartphone revolution. Today, Apple Computers is the most successful company in the world with a market capitalization of $326 billion.
The Important Take Away
CEOs are worshipped in the corporate scene. They are seen as powerful business-people who seem to see into the future. Most of the time, they are just individuals who go the extra mile more than the average person. One of the characteristics that CEOs share is leadership. The CEOs mentioned above are some of the greatest leaders in the history of business. You can learn a lot from them and even build your own company too.