Profiles in Leadership

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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.

Dean Kamen, inventor of the portable insulin pump, the wheelchair that climbs stairs and the Segway electric scooter, has three operating principles that have propelled him into leadership in his field:

Joe Englert, a developer of nightspots in Washington, D.C., became bored with what the city had to offer in the 1980s, so he leased an old pub and created a weekend joint called The Random Club ... that started the drive to revitalize a run-down corridor of the city. Englert’s experience goes to show that leaders must be willing to explore unusual opportunities.

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.

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