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The Greatest Leaders of All Time Tell You What You Need To Learn To Get Ahead

Cynthia Measom
·17 min read
Amazon CEO Founder Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Founder Jeff Bezos

You can learn a lot from a great leader. After all, those who are crushing it in the leadership arena often have these things in common: expectations of excellence, the power to influence others in a positive manner and a distinct vision of the future. Read on to learn career, finance and social responsibility advice from some of 2018’s world’s greatest leaders, and find out what it takes to effectively lead others.

Jeff Bezos [X]

Known best for his role as Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos has a drive to push the limits of possibility, which has catapulted Amazon to be the largest and most successful Internet retail company worldwide [X] — and made Bezos the richest person in the world. [X] His extreme drive, coupled with his desire to experiment in order to build the best business possible, make him a great leader. [X]

But Bezos isn’t all about making money. He considers his work with his space company, Blue Origin, most important because space travel is his passion — and Bezos encourages others to find theirs. In April 2018, at the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Forum on Leadership, Bezos imparted this career advice: “You can have a job, or you can have a career, or you can have a calling,” he said. “And if you can somehow figure out how to have a calling, you have hit the jackpot, cause that’s the big deal.” [X] [X]

Indira Jasing

Jasing, an attorney and founder of Lawyers Collective, [X] has spent her working life helping victims of injustice find a voice. [X] Her fearless crusade to fight for what she believes in makes her a great leader.

Jasing has also battled injustice in her own life as a woman and a lawyer in India’s highly patriarchal legal system. She’s interested in knocking down barriers that suppress women in the legal profession via affirmative action — especially for those women who wish to work as judges.

Jasing articulates her position on the issue well: “If you have two people of equal merit, one is a man and the other a woman, the woman should be preferred. The work space will become more democratic if you have more women judges. In the work environment, being a woman would be more acceptable and not be seen as an exception to the rule.” [X]

Larry Fink

As chairman and CEO of BlackRock, [X] Larry Fink oversees over $6 trillion in assets. Earlier this year, Fink tasked CEOS with not only ensuring their companies perform financially but also making sure the companies contribute to society in a positive manner. In response to school shootings, BlackRock probed gun retailers and manufacturers it owns for answers to preventing violence, which prompted many of those in the industry to change their policies.

BlackRock also introduced new funds that enable investors to pull completely away from stocks in the firearms industry as a nod to social responsibility. Placing part of his focus on critical social purposes, rather than just making it all about profitability, makes Fink a great leader. In his annual speech, Fink told CEOs, “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose.” [X]

Discover: 7 Traits of a CEO That Investors Look For

Elon Musk [X]

Although Musk might be considered an extremist by some, he is also thought of as a true visionary. After all, he’s the great mind behind companies like Tesla and SpaceX. And it’s his leadership traits that put him in a different class than other leaders who are CEOs, such as being obsessive about performing to the best of his ability at all times and being able to prevail in his beliefs, even in the face of extreme skepticism. [X]

Whether you’re a fan or not, Musk has some good advice that you can apply to your career or finances: “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.” [X]

Related: Trump, Putin and the Richest World Leaders, Ranked

Marry Barra

Barra defied tradition when she became the first female CEO of a major automaker, aka General Motors, but her position wasn’t gained without merit. Barra worked her way up through the ranks, proving herself worthy to take the helm. Since taking on the job of CEO, Barra has kept GM on a solid track, with leadership-worthy actions such producing the all-electric competitor Chevy Bolt, successfully weathering the storm during the company’s fatal ignition switch scandal and making significant headway in the autonomous driving industry. [X]

According to Barra, gender shouldn’t matter when it comes to the best person for the job: “I never want to get a job because I’m female,” she said. “I want to get it because I earned it and I deserve it … “[X]

Jeff Weiner [X]

Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, [X] possesses some leadership beliefs that have served him well at the forefront of the business-based social network service. [X]One example is that Weiner firmly believes that knowing the difference between a leader and manager can help leaders motivate employees to reach goals. [X]

In a 2012 interview with The New York Times, Weiner described the difference between leading and managing: “Managers will tell people what to do, whereas leaders will inspire them to do it, and there are a few things that go into the ability to inspire.” [X] According to Weiner, those few things are the “clarity of your vision, the courage of your conviction and the ability to communicate those two things.” [X]

Tim Cook

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, [X] would have made his predecessor Steve Jobs proud by being a great leader. He’s managed to keep Apple profitable without casting aside the company’s quest for innovation with saavy business moves, such as releasing the original Apple Watch in 2015 [X] and the recent Series 4 that has the ability to track abnormal heart activity. [X] Cook also has made socially conscious decisions for Apple, such as deciding to turn it into a carbon-neutral company via construction of huge solar plants.[X]

In 2017, after receiving an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow, Cook impressed upon the college-age crowd that it’s important to find a job that matches with your own sense of purpose, “You have to find the intersection of doing something you’re passionate about and at the same time something that is in the service of other people,” he said. “I would argue that, if you don’t find that intersection, you’re not going to be very happy in life.” [X]

Check Out: Essential Leadership Tips From Apple’s Tim Cook and Steve Jobs

Marc Benioff

As the CEO of Salesforce, Mark Benioff has a unique take on everything. [X] And Benioff’s originality has paid off: Salesforce is widely recognized for solid corporate leadership and sets an example in the tech world for being one of the most diverse workplaces by employing 35 percent minorities. [X]

But those accomplishments don’t mean that Benioff isn’t focused on growth. In fact, Benioff believes that growth has to be one of a CEO’s top values, but he doesn’t believe the product should be the driving focus: In a 2018 interview with Financial Times, Benioff said, “I mentor a lot of CEOs and entrepreneurs and when I see that product is the number-one thing, the only thing that matters, that’s a real red flag.” [X]

Jamie Dimon

Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, has been a proponent of tax reform for years — and many of his ideals were realized when President Trump signed them into law via the new tax bill earlier this year. In response, JPMorgan Chase pledged $20 billion over the next five years to improve pay and slash health insurance deductibles for its employees, as well as committing to hiring thousands of new staff members. [X]

What makes Dimon a great leader is that he is a big believer in persistence, which has much to do with his past successes: “People always say to me, ‘What if it doesn’t work?’ If it doesn’t work, we redouble our effort. We’re not going to cry like a bunch of babies. We’re going to redouble our effort,” said Dimon in a 2017 interview with Business Insider. [X]

Find Out: 16 Traits of Effective Leaders Anyone Can Develop

Mark Zuckerberg [X]

Becoming a billionaire and one of the world’s richest people at 23 [X] was certainly an impressive financial accomplishment for co-founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg. But that’s not what really stands out about him as a leader. Instead, it was Zuckerberg’s willingness in 2017 to take complete responsibility for the flawed — and deeply criticized — way the social platform was regulating sensitive content that highlighted his strengths as a leader. [X]

Obviously, Zuckerberg realizes that taking risks means taking responsibility, but he also believes that fear of failure shouldn’t deter you from moving forward: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks,” Zuckerberg said in during an on-stage interview designed to provide insights to enterprenuers at Y Combinator’s Startup School in Palo Alto, California. [X]

Gwynne Shotwell

Shotwell, who is President and COO of SpaceX — a company with the goal of creating the first colony on Mars — is also not afraid to fail. She’s the person responsible for internalizing Elon Musk’s often out-of-left-field ideas and making them a reality within Musk’s daunting timeline expectations. Shotwell is committed to bringing Musk’s desires to fruition, as evidenced by the recent successful launch of the company’s reusable, high-powered Falcon Heavy rocket and the presence of several other projects in the pipeline, like making high-bandwidth Internet via satellite a reality. [X]

In a 2018 interview with storytelling platform Makers, Shotwell said, “You don’t learn anything from success, but you learn a lot from your failures.” [X]

You can learn a lot from a great leader. After all, those who are crushing it in the leadership arena often have these things in common: expectations of excellence, the power to influence others in a positive manner and a distinct vision of the future. Some of the greatest leaders have plenty of career, finance and social responsibility advice that will help you effectively lead others.

Last updated: Nov. 19, 2020

Jeff Bezos seen on day two of Summit LA17 in Downtown Los Angeles's Historic Broadway Theater District
Jeff Bezos seen on day two of Summit LA17 in Downtown Los Angeles's Historic Broadway Theater District

Jeff Bezos

Known best for his role as Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos has the drive to push the limits of possibility. This catapulted Amazon to become the largest and most successful internet retail company worldwide — and made Bezos the richest person in the world. His extreme drive coupled with his desire to experiment in order to build the best business possible make him a great leader.

But Bezos isn’t all about making money. He considers his work with his space company, Blue Origin, most important because space travel is his passion — and Bezos encourages others to find theirs. In April 2018, at the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Forum on Leadership, Bezos imparted this career advice: “You can have a job, or you can have a career, or you can have a calling,” he said. “And if you can somehow figure out how to have a calling, you have hit the jackpot, ’cause that’s the big deal.”

Indira Jaising - The Wilson Center
Indira Jaising - The Wilson Center

Indira Jaising

Indira Jaising, an attorney and founder of Lawyers Collective, has spent her working life helping victims of injustice find a voice. Her fearless crusade to fight for what she believes in makes her a great leader.

Jaising also battled injustice in her own life as a female lawyer in India’s highly patriarchal legal system. She’s interested in knocking down barriers that suppress women in the legal profession via affirmative action — especially for women who wish to work as judges.

Jaising presented a scenario to articulate her position on the issue: “If you have two people of equal merit, one is a man and the other a woman, the woman should be preferred. The workspace will become more democratic if you have more women judges. In the work environment, being a woman would be more acceptable and not be seen as an exception to the rule.”

Photo by LAURENT GILLIERON/EPA-EFE/REX/ShutterstockLaurence D.
Photo by LAURENT GILLIERON/EPA-EFE/REX/ShutterstockLaurence D.

Larry Fink

As chairman and CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink oversees over $6 trillion in assets. Earlier this year, Fink tasked CEOs with not only ensuring their companies perform financially but also making sure their companies contribute to society in a positive manner. In response to school shootings, BlackRock probed the gun retailers and manufacturers that it owns for answers to preventing violence, which prompted many of those in the industry to change their policies.

BlackRock also introduced new funds that enable investors to pull completely away from stocks in the firearms industry as a nod to social responsibility. Placing part of his focus on critical social purposes, rather than just making it all about profitability, makes Fink a great leader. In his annual letter, Fink told CEOs, “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose.”

Elon Musk Co-founder and Ceo of Tesla Poses with a Model of the Brand During a Visit to Amsterdam the Netherlands 31 January 2014 the European Tesla Service is Based in Tilburg and the European Headquarters in Amsterdam Netherlands AmsterdamNetherlands Transport Tesla - Jan 2014.
Elon Musk Co-founder and Ceo of Tesla Poses with a Model of the Brand During a Visit to Amsterdam the Netherlands 31 January 2014 the European Tesla Service is Based in Tilburg and the European Headquarters in Amsterdam Netherlands AmsterdamNetherlands Transport Tesla - Jan 2014.

Elon Musk

Although Elon Musk might be considered an extremist by some, he is also thought of as a true visionary. After all, he’s the great mind behind companies like Tesla and SpaceX. And, it’s his leadership traits that put him in a different class compared to other leaders who are CEOs, such as being obsessive about performing to the best of his ability at all times and being able to prevail in his beliefs, even in the face of extreme skepticism.

Whether you’re a fan or not, Musk has some good advice that you can apply to your career or finances: “I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: Constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”

General Motors CEO Mary Barra
General Motors CEO Mary Barra

Mary Barra

Mary Barra defied tradition when she became the first female CEO of a major automaker, aka General Motors, but her position wasn’t gained without merit. Barra worked her way up through the ranks, proving herself worthy to take the helm. Since taking on the job of CEO, Barra has kept GM on a solid track, with leadership-worthy actions such as producing the all-electric competitor Chevy Bolt, successfully weathering the storm during the company’s ignition switch scandal and making significant headway in the autonomous driving industry. Unfortunately, GM hit rough roads in November 2018 when it was announced that the company would be laying off workers, but that doesn’t mean the company won’t bounce back under Barra’s leadership.

According to Barra, gender shouldn’t matter when it comes to the best person for the job. “I never want to get a job because I’m female,” she said. “I want to get it because I earned it and I deserve it.”

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Risberg/AP/Shutterstock (6315687a)Jeff Weiner LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner speaks during a product announcement at his company's headquarters, in San Francisco.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Risberg/AP/Shutterstock (6315687a)Jeff Weiner LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner speaks during a product announcement at his company's headquarters, in San Francisco.

Jeff Weiner

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, possesses some leadership beliefs that have served him well at the forefront of the business-based social network. One example is that Weiner firmly believes knowing the difference between a leader and manager can help leaders motivate employees to reach goals.

In a 2012 interview with The New York Times, Weiner described the difference between leading and managing: “Managers will tell people what to do, whereas leaders will inspire them to do it, and there are a few things that go into the ability to inspire.” According to Weiner, those few things are “the clarity of your vision, the courage of your conviction and the ability to effectively communicate those two things.”

Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc.
Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc.

Tim Cook

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, would have made his predecessor Steve Jobs proud of his great leadership skills. He has managed to keep Apple profitable without casting aside the company’s quest for innovation by making savvy business moves, such as releasing the original Apple Watch in 2015 and the recent Series 4 that has the ability to track abnormal heart activity. Cook has also made socially conscious decisions for Apple, such as making its China-based operations carbon neutral via construction of huge solar projects.

In 2017, after receiving an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow, Cook impressed upon the college-age crowd that it’s important to find a job that matches with your own sense of purpose. “You have to find the intersection of doing something you’re passionate about and at the same time something that is in the service of other people,” he said. “I would argue that if you don’t find that intersection, you’re not going to be very happy in life.”

Marc Benioff Salesforce chairman
Marc Benioff Salesforce chairman

Marc Benioff

As the co-CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff has a unique take on everything. Benioff’s originality has paid off: Salesforce is widely recognized for solid corporate leadership, and with a team where 35 percent of its employees are members of minorities, according to the Financial Times as of January 2018, it sets an example in the tech world for diverse workplaces.

But being recognized for those accomplishments doesn’t mean that Benioff isn’t focused on growth. Benioff believes that growth has to be one of a CEO’s top values; however, he doesn’t believe the product should be the driving focus. In a 2018 interview with the Financial Times, Benioff said, “I mentor a lot of CEOs and entrepreneurs, and when I see that product is the No. 1 thing, the only thing that matters, that’s a real red flag.”

SpaceX President and Chief Operation Officer Gwynne Shotwell gives remarks during a NASA event announcing the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, Friday, Aug.
SpaceX President and Chief Operation Officer Gwynne Shotwell gives remarks during a NASA event announcing the astronauts assigned to crew the first flight tests and missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, Friday, Aug.

Gwynne Shotwell

Gwynne Shotwell, who is the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX — a company with the goal of sending its first mission to Mars in 2022 — is not afraid to fail. She’s the person responsible for internalizing Elon Musk’s often unconventional ideas and making them a reality within Musk’s daunting timeline expectations. Shotwell is committed to bringing Musk’s desires to fruition, as evidenced by the successful launch of the company’s reusable, high-powered Falcon Heavy rocket in February 2018 and the presence of several other projects in the pipeline, like making high-bandwidth internet via satellites a reality.

In an interview with storytelling platform Makers, Shotwell said, “You don’t learn anything from success, but you learn a lot from your failures.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

Becoming a billionaire and one of the world’s richest people at 23 was certainly an impressive financial accomplishment for co-founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg. But that’s not what really stands out about him as a leader. Instead, it was Zuckerberg’s willingness in 2017 to take complete responsibility for the flawed — and deeply criticized — way in which the social platform was regulating sensitive content that highlighted his strengths as a leader.

Obviously, Zuckerberg realizes that taking risks means taking responsibility, but he also believes that fear of failure shouldn’t deter you from moving forward: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks,” Zuckerberg said during an onstage interview designed to provide insights to entrepreneurs at Y Combinator’s Startup School event in Palo Alto, Calif.

Jamie Dimon JPMorgan Chase
Jamie Dimon JPMorgan Chase

Jamie Dimon

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, has been a proponent of tax reform for years — and many of his ideals were realized when President Donald Trump signed them into law via a new tax bill. In January 2018, JPMorgan Chase responded by pledging $20 billion over the next five years to improve pay and slash health insurance deductibles for its employees, while committing to hiring thousands of new staff members.

What makes Dimon a great leader is that he is a big believer in persistence, which has much to do with his past successes: “People always say to me, ‘What if it doesn’t work?’ If it doesn’t work, we redouble our effort. We’re not going to cry like a bunch of babies. We’re going to redouble our effort,” said Dimon in a 2017 interview with Business Insider.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: The Greatest Leaders of All Time Tell You What You Need To Learn To Get Ahead