Profiles in Leadership

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In late 2008, Domino’s market share was plummeting. Instead of blaming collapsing sales on the nation’s economic downturn, executives chose a surprising strategy: They admitted their main product—pizza—wasn’t very good. Then Patrick Doyle took it a step further.
"Self-awareness," is what entrepreneur Joel Trammell says is the most important skill a CEO needs. "It’s hard to get authentic information from your employees. CEOs are constantly worried that they’re not hearing the full story."
During nearly 5½ years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, Lee Ellis relied on his sense of humor to keep him going. But it took his first three months in captivity for him to recapture his ability to laugh. Then 24, Ellis recalls the first time he flashed his humor as a POW.
When David Cote became Honeywell’s CEO in 2002, it was in disarray. And so he listed 12 behaviors that he wanted everyone to follow. He felt that unifying the company around the be­­haviors would work better than articulating vague, hard-to-measure values.
After three years as head writer for Saturday Night Live, Adam McKay was ready to quit in 2000. But before leaving SNL, McKay took his agent’s advice and ap­­proached Lorne Michaels with a series of de­­mands he’d need fulfilled to stay put. Employing the "least-interest" principle worked for him beautifully.

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.

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