10 Most Inspiring Leaders of All Time

By June 30, 2015Blog, Business

When was the last time you applauded someone else’s achievement and said to yourself, “Someday, I’m going to change the world the way he / she did.”

If you ask me, that would be a month ago. I was feeling really down and stressed, because there was just too many things to do yet so little time. I’m sure we all have that moments when we feel like nothing makes sense anymore. (I hope I’m not the only one!)

It took a quick read of a blog completely change my mood. The post was about leadership, and how all these is going to be worth it in the end, no matter how blurry circumstances may seem today.

Because of that read, I decided to write this leadership blog series. For the past month, we have talked about effective leadership as well as learned ways on how to empower employees. I felt that these topics were necessary because our employees are just as important as our customers.

To end this series with a bang, I’d like for us take a look outside “our box” and see what we can learn from the best of the best. I’ve written a short biography on the 10 most inspiring leaders in business today. Here they are:

Jeff Bezos – Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Amazon.com

Born January 12, 1964 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Jeff Bezos’ developed his love for computers at an early age and as a matter of fact, he ventured into his first business The Dream Institute when he was still in high school. Graduating from high school as the class valedictorian, Jeff pursued a degree in Computer Science at Princeton University where he graduated as a summa cum laude.

Even with a lucrative career in finance, Jeff Bezos took a leap and left his job in 1994 and moved to Seattle where he started developing his own software for an online bookstore and opened Amazon.com on July 16, 1995. With continuous innovation and diversifying his offerings on the site, Amazon.com proved to be a huge success, outpacing competitors and from a yearly sale of $510,000 in 1995 it jumped to over $17billion in 2011.

The release of Kindle in 2007 in Amazon and Bezos’ investment in Blue Origin an aerospace company has added to his prowess in the business world. Not stopping there, He went on to purchase The Washington Post among other publications for $250 million cash. One of his latest project is an Amazon experimental initiative called “Amazon Prime Air” aimed to provide a state of the art delivery service to customers which according to Bezos can be realized within 4-5 years.

Leadership Lesson:

I think you’d agree it’s hard to let go of something that gives us the feeling of stability, right? It could be a product that we launched for the first time, a valuable staff member, or a business ritual.

Jeff Bezos teaches us how to be brave enough to let go of good things so we can create something better. Even with a lucrative career in finance, he chose to risk it all to follow his passion. Now, he belongs to the best of the best.

Sheryl Sandberg – Facebook COO and Author

Born in Washington, D.C., in 1969, Sheryl Sandberg graduated as a summa cum laude from Harvard with a degree in economics, attended Harvard Business School and worked with the U.S. Department of Treasury before her 7 year stint at Google as vice president of global online sales & operations.

In 2008, Sandberg moved to Facebook where she is now the company’s COO, where aside from managing sales, business development, human resources, marketing, privacy, public policy and communications, she also helps in expanding the global footprint of the company.

Fortune named her as one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” and The Wall Street Journal’s “50 Women to Watch”.

Sandberg authored the best-selling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Not only is the book a huge success in sales, it is has also inspired LeanIn.org, a global community group founded by Sandberg aimed to help women across the globe reach and fulfill their ambitions.

Leadership Lesson:

Gone are the days when women are seen as inferior to men. Sheryl Sandberg has changed the views of millions of people all over the world when she showed us that women are equally great tech leaders and are totally leading the way. She has showed compassion in leadership through her books “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” which is now a best seller.

Angela Ahrendts – Senior Vice President, Retail, Apple

Named as the highest paid U.S. woman in 2015, this former Burberry Group chief executive officer was credited to have been responsible for the transformation of the brand into an international success after a near downfall.

Ahrendts gave the company an overhaul in her first few years with the company which included letting go of the Hong Kong design team as well as closing the New Jersey, South Wales and Rhondda Valley factories and centralized all manufacturing in Castleford, West Yorkshire. Licenses which were initially sold to other companies were bought back and she spearheaded the company’s branding bringing it back to the glory that Burberry is sitting on right now.

She is Apple’s first woman ever to land on their management team and is responsible for the expansions of Apple’s online and retail stores.

Leadership Lesson:

The story of Angela Ahrendts inspires those of us who are dealing with tough business problems by putting things in perspective. When you come into a business and everything works, life is sweet, but when you join a business or launch one and it’s not going as well as you hoped, it becomes a million times more challenging.

Make Angela Ahrendts an inspiration – she has turned one of the world’s largest companies from downfall to a complete success by not being afraid to change things — to remove the past practices that are no longer serving Apple so well, even if it was hugely profitable before. She pushed herself to find a new perspective and the result was Apple soaring to new heights.

Steve Jobs – Co-founder, Apple Computers

Revolutionising the technology of computers and mobile devices and introducing the world to the iPhone and the iPad is none other than the God of business, Steve Jobs.
Born on February 24, 195 in San Francisco, California, Steve Jobs developed his love for electronics in their family garage where his adoptive father showed him how to work with electronics.

Despite his intelligence and abilities, Jobs had a hard time in school and actually dropped out after six months in college. He later became a video game designer in Atari but left a few months later and went to India seeking for spiritual enlightenment. It was in 1976 when he and Steve Wozniak, who he met when he was in high school and started Apple Computer where they revolutionized the computer industry by coming up with smaller and more affordable machines. Three years after it’s debut, Apple Computer sales was at $139 million. Apple Computer became a publicly traded company which ended with a market value of $1.2 billion on its first day of trading.

A recall of Apple’s succeeding products due to design flaws hurt the company and Jobs left Apple in 1985 to start NeXT, Inc. Jobs also invested in an animation company which later became Pixar Animation Studios and after a merging with Walt Disney in 2006, Steve Jobs became Disney’s largest shareholder.

Apple bought NeXt, Inc in 1996 for $429 million and Jobs went back to being Apple’s CEO in 1997. Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011 due to pancreatic cancer.

Leadership Lesson:

Millions of people all over the world mourned for the death of Steve Jobs. His legacy lives with us today in the form of iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers. He has proven to his critics that he can be a great leader, even when they think that he doesn’t have the credentials to be one.

So if you’re feeling down today, ask yourself this: “What would Steve Jobs do if he was in my position?” The answer? He would think outside the box and would do everything that he can to make things work.

Bill Gates – Co-founder, Microsoft.

Born on October 28, 1955, Bill gates started showing a keen interest in computer programming when he was still 13 years old. He was also known for his love of reading since a very young age. He studied at an exclusive preparatory school Lakeside School in Seattle where he met Paul Allen. Being the computer genius that he already was, Bill Gates developed a payroll program for a computer company that they hacked into and also created a scheduling program for the school.

Gates was still 15 years old when started a business with Paul Allen and both developed a computer program that monitored Seattle’s traffic patterns which resulted in a $20,000 net profit.

Not totally interested in finishing studying Law, as his parents originally wished for him, Gates left Harvard University to join Paul Allen at Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry System (MITS) after both developed software for the company. It was in 1975 when Allen and Gates formed Microsoft.

After dispute on software development with MITS president Ed Roberts, MITS was sold to another company which left Gates and Allen on their own and had to fight the new owner of MITS in court to retain rights on the software they developed for the company.
Microsoft continued to work with other computer companies writing software and at age 23, he was heading the $2.5 million grossing company.

In 1980, IBM approached Microsoft in search for a software that would operate their personal computer but instead of selling the operating system, Gates decided to charge IBM for licensing fee for each software sold together with their computers.
Revenue skyrocketed up to 16 million between 1978 and 1981 and by 1983, Microsoft had gone global.

Microsoft launched Windows in November 1985 and became a public company in 1985. By 1987, stocks had increased in value to $90.75 from the initial public offering of $21 per share making Bill Gates a billionaire at the age of 31.

Further development of the Windows software, Microsoft office was introduced in 1989 which enabled the company to stay on top of the market.

Leadership Lesson:

Did you know that Bill Gates although he started his business venture in a very young age, he wasn’t a very participative leader at first? He had some difficulty in giving others the power to make critical decisions, and wanted to oversee everything the company was doing.

So remember this… if you’re afraid of delegating and tend to wear the ‘micromanager’ hat from time to time, think of Bill Gates and how he was able to make himself trust the ability of others. That trust has made his company a multi-million dollar business today!

Henry Ford – Automobile Manufacturer

This Wayne County born businessman developed his love for mechanics at the young age of 13 when he first learned how to fix timepieces. He left home and at the age of 16 and worked as a machinist in Detroit where he honed his skills in operating and servicing steam engines. Later on he worked as an engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company.

Ford constructed the Ford Quadricycle in 1896 continued to build better models soon after. The Ford Motor Company was established in 1903 and introduced the Model T in 1908. By 1918, half of the running cars in the US were Model T’s.

Despite his success, Henry Ford remained a well-loved person who was known for his vision which was to keep Ford Motor Company a manufacturer of inexpensive cars and to make sure that the company’s loyal workers earn steady wages.

Ford died on April 7, 1947 due to a cerebral hemorrhage and is credited today for his contribution in building America’s economy.

Leadership Lesson:

Do you want to know Henry Ford’s secret to success? Follow your passion. Give great value to your customers. Love your employees. These are the three best lessons we can learn from Henry Ford.

He followed his passion in mechanics, which paved way to him putting up his automobile manufacturer business. He also give great value to his customers and made sure that the prices of his vehicles were inexpensive. Most of all, he loved the people who made his dream come true, and rewarded his employees with good wages.

Donald Trump – Businessman and real estate developer.

Inspired by his father who was a real estate developer, he joined the family’s company, the Trump Organization, and took it much further than his father ever dreamt of. Trump became recognised for his building projects in Manhattan and his ability to see profit where people could not. In 1980, he opened Grand Hyatt, which success made him the best developer in the city.

The Trump Tower was opened in 1982 and became a hub for celebrities and popular retail stores thereby making Trump a national figure.

Despite the rise and fall of his net worth in the early 90’s, Trump managed to climb back up the economic ladder. In 1997, he was reported to be worth almost $2 billion.
Trump just announced his run for presidency last June 16, 2015.

Leadership Lesson:

Never give up. This is what we can learn from Donald Trump. Even if he has had a lot of downfall since the inception of his business, he never took that as a sign to stop doing what he loves. He managed to climb back up the economic ladder by being innovative and hardworking and persisting to no end.

Elon Musk – Innovator

This entrepreneur is well known as a critical thinker and a hard working person who shows in all the success he has garnered in the industries he’s dipped his hands into.
He earned his first $500 at the age of 12 by creating and selling a computer game called Blastar.

Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa and later migrated to Canada in 1989 then later to the United States in 1992 after he received a scholarship from the University of Pennsylvania. It was there he earned a degree in Physics and then went onto the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania where he obtained a degree in economics.

In 1995, he created his first IT Company with his brother Kimbal Musk called Zip2 and this was later bought by AltaVista for $307 million in cash and securities worth $34 million.
He started working on an electronic payment system in 1999 in his startup company called X.com which later merged with its rival Confinity and in 2001; X.com was renamed to PayPal where he was the Chief Executive. When eBay bought PayPal in 2002, he received $180 million and used it to fund his other ventures.

Elon Joined Tesla Motors in 2004 with a $70 million personal contribution and was involved in the design of the company’s first electric car, the Tesla Roadster. With multiple roadblocks towards the company’s success, Elon gave the management a shakeup and got rid of those who stalled the development of the project and in 2006, Musk received Global Green 2006 product design award for the car’s design.

Tesla Motors went public in 2010 and attracted over $225 million of investments and as of February 5, 2015 from its initial $17 per stock in 2010, it went up to $220.99.
Other investments made by Musk seem to be doing well too, aside from owning 30% of Tesla Motors, Inc., he also owns 25% of SolarCity, and 66% of SpaceX shares among others.

Leadership Lesson:

Although it’s hard to let go of people who have been with you since day dot, it’s absolutely necessary if they’re stalling the project and pulling you down. This is the one of things we can learn from Elon Musk.

He had the courage to say no to people who were not giving him results. Being a leader means you need to set an example. This also means that you have to make the toughest decisions — even if it means asking your team to kindly move on.

Marissa Mayer – President and CEO, Yahoo!

Reported to have a net worth of $300 million, this Wisconsin born lady was Google’s first female engineer.

In 2005, she became the vice president of Search Products and User Experience and was involved in the development of Google news, maps and Gmail, among others.
Mayer moved to Yahoo! in July of 2012 and became the company’s CEO and is also a member of the board of directors. She led the company in acquiring Tumblr in 2013.
In 2013, Marissa Mayer was listed number one on Fortune magazine’s 40 business stars under 40 years old, 10th in Businessperson of the Year and at number 8 in Most Powerful Women.

Leadership Lesson:

This is for those who are told they “too young” to become leaders. Marissa Mayer has inspired the youth to aim higher, simply because it is possible to be lined up with the world’s greatest if you have the passion for it, so long as you flex your mindset muscle to get there!

Mark Zuckerberg – Co-founder and CEO, Facebook

This young billionaire co-founded Facebook in his college dormitory room while he was still in college at Harvard. Together with his friends Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin, he developed a social networking website which allowed users to create profiles, communicate with other users and upload photos. Towards the end of 2004, Facebook already had 1 million users.

After his sophomore year, Zuckerberg dropped out of college and moved to Palo Alto, California to focus on developing Facebook.

Despite many legal issues regarding intellectual property, Zuckerberg continues to bring Facebook to greater success. It continues to attract advertisers and maintains to be one of the most popular social hubs around today. Mark Zuckerberg was named Person of the Year in 2010 and ranked No. 35 in the Forbes “400” list with an estimated worth of $6.9 billion.

Leadership Lesson:

One of the best things I learned from Mark Zuckerberg is that your past and the thoughts of others do not define you. Yes, he dropped out of college. Yes, that may not be ideal to some companies. But he showed them that the real value of a person is his talent, and not his grades.

He showed the world that it is possible to do what you want to do, without abiding by the “rules” set by society.

If you’re feeling unsure of yourself and of your business today, read this… The ten names mentioned in this article weren’t born as the greatest businessmen or women — they were ordinary people who persevered and never stopped even when things got really tough. They believed in themselves, in their own ability and endless possibilities and opportunities, and this faith brought them to where they are today.

So if you’re reading this, and you’re at the brink of giving up, don’t. Your next/first breakthrough might be just around the corner and the world needs what you have to share.

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