Profiles in Leadership

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Pierre Omidyar, eBay’s founder, always maintained high standards as a software engineer. But early in his career, he learned that he couldn’t impose his perfectionism on others. What was his personal 80% rule?
For John Foraker, image is everything. He has helped Annie’s Homegrown cultivate an appealing, healthy brand with consumers—and they’ve responded by buying his products with increasing fervor.
During Steve Ballmer’s 13 years as Micro­­soft’s CEO, the company’s revenues tripled and its profits doubled. But the man who replaced Bill Gates also took some criticism.
"Credit belongs to he who is in the arena," Theodore Roosevelt said, "his face marred by dust, sweat, and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs to come short and short again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming."
In October 2008, Fred Tomczyk spent his first month as TD Ameritrade’s CEO under fire. He found himself running the financial services firm amid a punishing global economic crisis. But rather than retreat into survival mode, he decided to overhaul the firm’s business model.
Drew Greenblatt knew that Marlin Steel could not survive Chinese competitors, who were luring away his customers—big bagel chains that bought the company's wire baskets. The Baltimore firm was struggling to stay afloat in 2003 when a fateful call from a Boeing engineer led to some market research that changed everything.
Randall Hogan, chairman and chief executive of Pentair, says “thinking right to left” is a key to succeeding as CEO. He defines it as identifying where you are now as a starting point and then articulating a clear goal to reach a different point.
When Mattel hired Richard Dickson as general manager of its Barbie brand in 2008, the famous doll was in a lull. After hitting a high of $1.52 billion in ­Barbie sales in 2002, Mattel had struggled through a six-year decline. Dickson hit the ground running to put an end to "brand goulash."
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."
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