As Joanna Bloor points out, the burning question for any business leader is: “What do I want to be known for?”
To convince others to follow, business leaders must not only engage employees, but also inspire them. Nevertheless, a recent Harvard Business Review report suggests that many business leaders are falling woefully short, with more than 50 percent of respondents reporting a lack of motivation or inspiration from leadership. Here, we look at three exceptional business leaders and their impressive accomplishments.
1. Sheryl Sandberg
Having successfully transitioned from government to the corporate world, Sheryl Sandberg is an influential advocate for women in business. As well as serving as Facebook’s chief operating officer since 2008, she founded the Lean In nonprofit organization.
Sandberg’s pathway to tech leadership is somewhat unconventional. Rather than specializing in engineering or computer science, she started her career as a research assistant for chief economist Larry Summers at the World Bank, supplementing her income by teaching aerobics classes. After earning her MBA, she worked for Larry Summers full time, joining him at the U.S. Treasury Department as his chief of staff after he was appointed deputy secretary during the Clinton administration.
In 2001, Sandberg changed career course completely, moving to California to become Google’s vice president of global online sales and operations. She stayed with Google until 2008, when she became the COO of Facebook.
Today, Sandberg is one of Silicon Valley’s most successful business leaders. She has an estimated net worth of circa $2 billion, ranking highly on the Forbes’ list of most influential women. Her book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Leadtackles the wide variety of issues faced by working mothers striving to strike the right work-family balance. In 2013, she established the Lean In Foundation in the wake of her book’s phenomenal success, creating a platform to provide women with ongoing inspiration, supporting them with educational, community, and networking opportunities to help them achieve their goals.
2. Bob Iger
During his tenure as The Walt Disney Company’s chief executive officer (2005-20), Bob Iger steered the organization through a period of major expansion, branching out into uncharted territory in the Far East with the construction of two new Disney theme parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Upon retiring as Disney’s CEO with more than 45 years’ experience in the media industry, he was commanding an annual salary of $66 million and straightway commenced work as Disney’s executive chairman.
The Long Island native’s rise to the top was far from easy, however. From the age of 13, Iger worked various odd jobs, including as a school janitor, scraping chewing gum from desks during the summer to support himself. At the age of 23, he secured the role of studio supervisor for ABC Television, and over the next 31 years, he moved through 20 positions at the company before joining Disney in 2005.
In his memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime, Iger explains that he worked his way up from being a lowly crew member at ABC to running an entire television network, one that produced some of the most innovative programming of all time. He also shares the 10 principles that helped him to succeed, namely: courage, optimism, decisiveness, focus, curiosity, thoughtfulness, fairness, authenticity, integrity, and a relentless pursuit of perfectionism.
In June 2012, the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education, an organization established by director Steven Spielberg, honored Iger with its Ambassador for Humanity Award in recognition of not only his philanthropy and support for the Institute’s work, but also his leadership role in corporate citizenship.
3. Reshma Saujani
As the first Indian-American woman to run for U.S. Congress, Reshma Saujani has been a longtime proponent of diversity and equality. As the chief executive officer of Girls Who Code, she leads a movement that by 2016 had established girls’ coding clubs and summer camps all over the world, educating, supporting, mentoring, and inspiring more than 40,000 girls.
Having commenced her career as a lawyer, Saujani eventually transitioned to politics. While on the campaign trail running for Congress, she became aware of glaring gender gaps in STEM-related fields, explaining that when she walked into a computer science class in New York City, she was greeted by a sea of boys, with just one or two girls. Although the tech industry was growing, it was leaving behind huge swaths of the population. So, after an unsuccessful election campaign, she started Girls Who Code.
Saujani founded the nonprofit with the mission of increasing the number of women in computer science, supporting girls and educating young women, providing them with the skills needed to pursue 21st-century opportunities. Today, the organization runs more than 8,500 programs worldwide and is still growing, closing the tech gender gap one girl at a time.