Just like empires, companies can come and go with the times. However, there are some that last for ages, and great leadership is the secret. Great leaders have the ability to motivate employees, help others see and believe in a vision, and lead innovation in the company. Having a great leader at the helm is something that all investors, consumers, and employees want. Here is a list of the 20 most influential business leaders that are changing the world.
What Is an Industry Leader?
An industry leader is a reputable business professional with high levels of expertise in a specific field or area. Industry leaders are innovative, driven, strategic, and able to adapt to changing trends in their field. When technological developments arise or demand changes, they know how to respond appropriately and can offer valuable solutions.
On an organizational level, business leaders in an industry understand how to meet company and consumer needs. They research consumers and competitors while providing strategic solutions that address buyer and organizational demands.
To accomplish this, industry leaders must know their employers well, understand how competitors operate, and offer valuable solutions to improve business products and services. Their goal is to help transform a company for the better.
Industry leaders pave the way for company success with new ideas and unique approaches. Leaders can wear many hats, but they most frequently fill one of these roles:
- Company founder
What Are the Qualities of a Business Leader?
Here are some of the most common qualities leaders in an industry demonstrate.
Informative and Innovative
Industry leaders remain at the top of their profession. They constantly research trends, examine the latest developments in their area, and devote time to devising solutions that benefit their organization.
Professional leaders across all industries thoroughly understand company objectives (both small and large). They have a detailed vision of what it takes to achieve attainable goals, helping to set the company up for long-term success.
Solid Communication Skills
Industry professionals know how to communicate effectively with board members, employees, and stakeholders to address opportunities and organizational challenges. Successful leaders don’t settle for subtle or abrupt communication. Instead, they lay out their goals and solutions clearly. They also engage in active listening to gain valuable feedback.
Every industry needs leaders willing to step into the unknown and embrace risk. Industry leaders understand that company success depends on striving toward goals both easy to attain and longer term.
These daring leaders are not afraid to voice their opinions and put their ideas into action, even in the face of potential failure. These qualities set famous business leaders apart.
15 Business Leaders Who Changed the World
1) Reshma Saujani
Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code, which promotes technology training (specifically coding) to girls. She is an American lawyer and politician. Her company, Girls Who Code, has camps set up in 42 states with over 10,000 girls attending. She has been a leader in empowering women in the workplace.
2) Tim Cook
Cook is the CEO of the most valuable company in the world, Apple. He took over Apple after the company’s founder, Steve Jobs, succumbed to cancer in 2011. Cook has helped navigate Apple through the transition after Jobs’ death as well as developing new product lines and opening Apple retail stores in China.
3) Sheryl Sandberg
Sandberg has served as the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook from 2008 to 2022. She founded a nonprofit, Lean In, named after her best-selling book. She has been an influential advocate for women in the business world. She has made the successful transition from government work at the Treasury Department to the tech industry at Google and Facebook.
4) Bob Iger
Iger is the Executive Chairman and former CEO of the Disney Corporation. He has led the acquisitions of major companies like Marvel, Pixar, and, most recently, Lucas Films. His leadership has also led to the expansion of Disney’s theme parks into Shanghai and Hong Kong.
5) Reed Hastings
Hastings is the co-founder and CEO of Netflix. What originally started as a no-late-fees, no-due-dates subscription service soon transitioned into online streaming, which shook the very foundation of digital entertainment. In addition, Hastings constantly uses his position of influence to promote change and reform in the California State Board of Education and through charter schools.
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6) Mary Barra
Barra is the chairman and CEO of General Motors Company. Prior to her in 2014, she served as the Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain at GM. She is currently contesting for space in the electric automobile market. In 2016, she launched the Chevrolet Bolt EV with a battery that outlasts Tesla’s. As of late 2017, Barra was elected to the board of Disney with high regards from Robert Iger.
7) Huateng “Pony” Ma
Also known as Pony Ma, he is the founder and president of Tencent, Inc. Tencent is one of the largest internet companies in China. He has been named to Time’s most-influential-people list twice (2007 and 2014). Ma is known for his secretive lifestyle but wields substantial power both domestically and with foreign companies.
8) Jack Ma
Ma was the first entrepreneur from mainland China to appear on the cover of Forbes magazine. He is also the founder of Alibaba Group, a group of internet companies. Before getting accepted to Hangzhou Teacher’s Institute, Ma was rejected from university three times. After graduation, he applied for 30 jobs and was turned down for all of them. He first learned about the internet during a short trip to the U.S., and when he returned home, he created a small website about China and Chinese products. This would be his first step towards creating a company that would hold the record for largest IPO in history.
9) Jan Koum
Koum was born in Kyiv, Ukraine but moved to the United States when he was 16 years old. He soon discovered his passion for programming and enrolled at San José State University. After a brief stint at SJSU and working as a security tester at Yahoo, Koum started WhatsApp. WhatsApp quickly became one of the fastest downloaded apps in the App Store, and one of the most internationally used apps. Koum sold WhatsApp to Facebook in 2014 for approximately $19.3 billion.
10) Bill Gates
Gates founded Microsoft, the world’s largest PC software company, and each year, he is consistently near the top of the list of the world’s wealthiest people. Over the years, Gates has slowly transitioned away from Microsoft and into philanthropic ventures. His foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is working to provide clean water and sanitation (among other things) to third-world countries. Like Warren Buffett, Gates has also promised to leave the vast majority of his wealth to charity.
11) Elon Musk
Musk was born in South Africa and is a businessman, inventor, and investor. Musk is most widely known for his founding of PayPal and SpaceX and his heavy involvement in Tesla Motors. His innovative vision and unrelenting passion for pushing the boundaries of technology and consumer integration have led to increased exposure to solar power, high-speed transportation, and artificial intelligence.
12) Warren Buffett
Buffett is one of the most successful investors in the world. Some people have referred to him as the “Wizard of Omaha” (his birthplace is Omaha, Nebraska) and he is consistently named as one of the wealthiest people in the world. He is currently the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He has also pledged to give away nearly 99% of his accumulated wealth to philanthropic causes after his death.
13) Jeff Weiner
Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn. Although LinkedIn was founded in 2002, it was under Weiner’s leadership that LinkedIn completed its IPO and became one of the most-used social media platforms in the world. Weiner is also extremely active in non-profits, sitting on the Board of Directors of DonorsChoose.org and Malaria No More.
14) Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos is the founder of the mega-corporation Amazon. What started as an online bookstore is now the world’s largest online sales company. For 4 years from 2017-2021, Bezos was the wealthiest person in the world. As of 2021, he has stepped down as CEO of Amazon and moved to an executive chairman position.
15) John Zimmer
John Zimmer is the co-founder and president of Lyft, which started in 2012. The company was originally called Zimride, and started as a rideshare service on college campuses. Since the launch, Zimmer and his co-founder, Logan Green, have worked to make Lyft one of the fastest-growing tech companies.
16. Ursula Burns
Famous business leader Ursula Burns started at the Xerox Corporation as a summer intern in 1980 and became president of the company in 2007. From 2010 to 2017, she was the chairman of the board for Xerox and CEO from 2009 to 2016. She turned the company into one of the world’s most diversified business services companies during her tenure.
17. Arianna Huffington
In 2005, Arianna Huffington founded The Huffington Post. In 2016, she founded and became CEO of Thrive Global, a behavioral technology company. Its goal is to revolutionize the way people work and live. The company discussed the idea of burnout (and all but coined the term as a professional buzzword) before it became widely used.
18. Indra Nooyi
Nooyi was the Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo from 2006 to 2019. She was the creator of Performance with Purpose, PepsiCo’s declaration to create successful businesses by paying attention to the world’s needs. Initiatives from this pledge included adding more nutritious products to their portfolio, becoming more environmentally sustainable, and revolutionizing the business by highlighting the importance of design. With Nooyi as CEO, PepsiCo’s net revenue increased by more than 80%, and shareholder return was 162%.
19. Meg Whitman
Whitman was CEO of eBay from 1998 to 2008, taking the company from $5.7 million to $8 billion in sales. She then became CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 2011 to 2015, overseeing its division into Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. She’s currently the United States ambassador to Kenya.
20. Rosalind Brewer
In 2006, Brewer had various leadership positions at Walmart before moving to Sam’s Club in 2012. Her tenure at Sam’s Club ended in 2017 when she moved to become the CEO and Group President of Starbucks. In 2021, she became CEO of Walgreens, making her a particularly famous business leader as she is the only Black woman CEO for an S&P 500 company.
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