Profiles in Leadership
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Malcom McLean didn’t like to waste time, but in 1937, he had to spend most of a day waiting for his truckload of cotton to be loaded onto a ship in Hoboken, N.J. It gave him a bold idea. He saw what needed to be done to streamline shipping—but it would take him 20 years to make it happen.
As a young child in northern Sweden, Yngve Bergqvist spent much of his time shoveling snow. Years later, he was so accustomed to snow and ice that he built a thriving business around it. Bergqvist decided to create a hotel made entirely of ice. It seemed crazy, but the concept worked.
She started her career in journalism by rebuking a columnist in the Pittsburgh Dispatch who called working women “a monstrosity.” Her fiery rebuttal impressed the editor. Hired under a pen name, she produced investigative articles about terrible conditions for female factory workers. In 1887, Bly talked her way into an undercover assignment to get herself committed to an insane asylum so she could report on conditions there.
After more than two years of testing a Doritos-flavored taco shell, Taco Bell still had not signed a contract to partner with the company that made Doritos. So as the date neared for a major launch, CEO Greg Creed invited Frito-Lay’s CEO to a meeting where they forged a handshake deal. Creed’s eagerness to forge ahead without an official contract paid off.
Today, many people see Bill Gates as a globetrotting humanitarian. But in the 1980s, he was a headstrong entrepreneur. An incident involving company co-founder Paul Allen, a race to catch a flight, and an ill-advised attempt to spontaneously learn jetway mechanics demonstrates what made him so effective.
In 1991, Jerry Sternin headed to Vietnam. His goal: to fight child malnutrition in poor villages. Sternin isolated the few people who were modeling problem-solving behavior when most were following negative patterns. He thus discovered what the “positive deviants” did to produce such superior results.
During Alyson Pitman Giles' 13 years at the helm of Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., the hospital’s finances reversed course. By the time she left in 2012, its operating margin exceeded $3 million. But her success did not come without turmoil.
The Associated Press placed Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the top 10 athletes of the 20th century. "The formula for success is simple," she said. "Practice and concentration, then more practice and more concentration."
Pressed to the limits by his workload, Stephen Shapiro analyzed all the activities on his plate and found only a small percentage of them truly mattered. Within two weeks, he had reduced his weekly work hours from 110 to 20. What can be learned from this speaker and consultant's example?
"We’re in an industry with 115% annual turnover," says Brian Fielkow, president and CEO of Jetco Delivery. "Our raw number is about one-third of that." How does he craft a culture than resonates with employees?
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