Profiles in Leadership

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Pete Sampras realized early in his tennis career that his opponent wasn’t beating him. Sampras was beating himself. It wasn’t just that he’d played badly, Sampras says now. “I also played without heart, which is a greater sin.” Later in his career, Sampras saw reality with rare objectivity. He lists five truisms as mostly fair and all realistic, starting with "You're only as good as your last win..."

Jean Henri Dunant arrived in Solferino, Italy, on a business trip in 1859 and found himself in the middle of hell. About 38,000 soldiers lay dead and dying, casualties of a battle to push Austria out of Italy. That moment inspired him to launch the International Red Cross. Another big idea that came from his work: the Geneva Conventions. How did he make it happen?

Think the economy is bad now? Here’s how things stood in 1933: The jobless rate in America hit 25%. Business investment choked. Banks defaulted. Totalitarianism swept the globe. FDR—according to his critics—appeared vain, insincere, a liar and, generally, not a nice guy. So, how did he restore faith in the U.S. economy?

Ever wonder who was the first woman to appear on the Wheaties cereal box?  It was Elinor Smith, the “Flying Flapper.” She made her first solo flight at age 15 and was one of the youngest Americans to earn a pilot’s license. By age 17, Smith was taking passengers on short hops and by age 18 she was running her own sightseeing business. Among the many risks she took was a wild dare from some boys in her high school that has never been repeated.

Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley had a lot going for him, although in the beginning, money wasn’t one of them. He arrived in Chicago from Philadelphia in 1891, holding only $32.  “A man’s doubts and fears are his worst enemies,” he said. “He can go ahead and do anything so long as he doesn’t know he can’t do it.”
"The only sus­tainable source of competitive advantage is innovation. It’s that simple. And that hard, " says Andrew Razeghi, who teaches innovation at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and is an advisor to Fortune 500 companies. He says the real reason for Detroit’s failure to innovate lies in its rewards system ...

You’d be forgiven for expecting Shaun White to become a shill after winning a gold medal in snowboarding at the Olympics and more gold in skateboarding at the Summer X Games. Instead, the “Flying Tomato,” with his wild red hair and southern California style, took control of his image.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey may have found the solution to the interruption-heavy life of a C-suite executive: He themes his days. If he didn’t, he might find it impossible to do his job. Or, rather, jobs.

Donald Keough, former president of Coca-Cola, has 10 commandments to follow if you want to be a “highly successful loser”: 1. Play it safe. It doesn’t take long for things to grind to a halt if you simply reduce risk to zero. 2. Don't budge. Inflexibility is one of the fastest ways to lose both customers and employees. That’s what happened at Coke for years as company leaders came to think of the drink and the green bottle as a single unit.

The world was simpler when Shelly Lazarus went to work for ad agency Ogilvy & Mather in 1971. Decades later, as CEO and chairwoman of the behemoth Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide that employs over 15,000 people in 125 countries, Lazarus continued to keep in mind one simple advertising truth. Even when others told her it did not apply to China.

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