Profiles in Leadership

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They called him Mr. Hockey for good reason. He was one of the sport’s icons. “If people someday compare me to Gordie Howe, it will be the biggest compliment they could pay me,” says Wayne Gretzky, who broke several of Howe’s records. “If you ask me about my idol, there’s just one: Gordie.” Howe offers this advice to leaders:
Pandora, the free Internet radio that plays music specifically suited to your taste, continues to grow like a weed, with practically every metric skyrocketing. Pandora founder Tim Westergren says, "When you’re a small company, what you lack in scale you have to make up for by being a step ahead of the competition. Innovation is an absolute cornerstone of our company."

Billy Beane revolutionized the way baseball players are valued and also exploited the advantages of timing. The reason his Oakland A’s played like a different team in the second half of their 2001 season is because they were a different team. Their general manager, on a shoestring budget, had scooped up undervalued players right before the trading deadline ...

By almost any standard, Sara Blakely was living an ordinary life. Blakely had never taken a business course and was clueless on patent law. But doggedly, without quitting her day job, she did the research and took time off to get her invention manufactured and sold. She named it SPANX ...

Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke is a quiet guy, the engineer father of two engineer sons who describes his family as “boring.” He loves working behind the scenes. Most of his career has been spent simplifying processes, building teams and slowly scaling the ranks in Latin American obscurity. For Nestlé, this was perfect.

Even though it’s a cliché, it's still true that our greatest strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses. For Thomas Jefferson, his strength lay in trusting people. But when it came to financial matters—he trusted too much. To use the signature phrase of a much later president, Jefferson needed to “trust but verify.”

After his death in 2010, at age 99, accolades poured out for John Wooden, the greatest men’s college basketball coach. Wooden had 10 national titles. Collectively, the four runners-up have 13 titles. In 27 years at UCLA, Wooden sometimes won with more talent than his opponents and sometimes with markedly less. How? Here's a glimpse.

Author Sarah Miller Caldicott, great-grandniece of the inventor, is working on a second book about Thomas Edison’s collaboration methods. Edison believed in collaboration not only as a way of accelerating the innovation process, but to expand the solution set, Caldicott says. He liked to create diverse groups of people from diverse disciplines.

“The only thing that’s worse than ‘bad’ is ‘boring,’” critiques Sydney Brenner, a founder of molecular biology who shared a Nobel Prize for his achievements in 2002. At age 84, he keeps traveling the world, opening up new fields of research and stimulating ideas. Here's how.

Even in his youth, Ulysses S. Grant picked his battles. Arriving at West Point to study, he decided against arguing with the adjutant about his own name (actually Hiram Ulysses) and accepted the name given to him in a mix-up, realizing it would serve him better than the initials H.U.G.

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