Most of us are familiar with at least one of the Fortune 500 companies across the United States. The leaders of these companies inspire change bringing us new innovations progressing us into the future. John Maxwell said, “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” Read below to see who your Georgetown Wise Counsel staff has favorited when it comes to leaders in business who have helped us see the vision.
Sir Frank Williams
Excerpt by Zachary Langan, CFP®
Sir Frank Williams, founder and team principal of the Williams Formula 1 racing team, was well-known and revered by any participant or devoted fan of the sport. Although he built his business into one of the most successful racing teams in the sport’s history, it was his passion, perseverance, and leadership style that separated him from others. Coming from humble means, he bought used old racecars in 1966 with the money he earned as a traveling grocery salesman, then repaired/improved them into somewhat competitive specimens. He conducted business on the edge of bankruptcy for about a decade, at one point making calls out of a telephone booth since his phone had been disconnected for non-payment. Being a mechanic and engineer at heart, Frank wasn’t too good to do anything in the garage or elsewhere in the business. His life’s biggest setback occurred in 1986 when a horrific car crash left him paralyzed below the neck. Despite being a quadriplegic, Sir Frank built his team in the 80’s and 90’s to dominate the sport and attract the best racing drivers, going on to win nine Constructor world championships and seven Driver world championships. Even in old age, he was seen in the pits in his wheelchair with a smile on his face leading his devoted team. In addition to Williams’ induction into the Motorsport Hall of Fame and numerous honors from the British and French governments during his lifetime, including being knighted, he received the Helen Rollason Awarded for achievement in the face of adversity. In a sport where politics and drama abound and money is often the primary motivator, Sir Frank was loved and respected unanimously for his determination and pure love of the sport.
Excerpt by Jasmine Cormier
Communications and Marketing Manager
Ursula Burns is one of my favorite business leaders. I find that she is a triple-threat: Intelligent, opinionated, and confident. Ursula is quoted saying, “I realized I was more convincing to myself and to the people who were listening when I actually said what I thought, versus what I thought people wanted to hear me say.” Ursula is proactive in her stances and using her voice is how she moved up from her college internship to Executive Assistant to Chief Executive Officer to a Billionaire. She grew Xerox into a diversified business solutions company, as well as helped girls and socially and economically challenged students compete and find belonging in STEM- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. What I admire about her leadership style is that she believed in the company culture and the people who make the company what it is. She served on former President Barack Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Plus, I appreciate that she was able to do it while loving her husband and children. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for numerous Fortune 500 companies. I look forward to seeing what she does in the non-profit space.
Excerpt by Bob Huntley, CFP®, CHFC®, CKA ®
Founder and Wealth Advisor
From all accounts, Steve Jobs was a deeply flawed human being. But he was just as certainly a transformational business leader. One of his strengths was his obsession over the quality of Apple products and the end user experience. It is rare for business leaders to consistently keep the main thing, the main thing. There are always attractive new lines of business or new features to offer. Each new feature or product demand time and resources to develop, launch and service. Jobs understood that Apple didn’t need more than a few transformational products executed to perfection, to make a dent in the universe. Refusing to get distracted and obsessively demanding quality and simplicity, bordered on levels of phobia at Apple. But it resulted in some of the most transformational products and one of the highest valued companies in history. Whether it’s product design, marketing strategy or even explaining complex things, simplicity, and the discipline to focus relentlessly on the most important thing is a rare and valuable leadership trait that was a key reason for Steve Jobs’ effectiveness at Apple.
Small Business Owners
Excerpt by Sidney Meriweather, CFP®
Associate Wealth Advisor
When we were asked to write an excerpt on our favorite business leaders, I felt stumped. There are so many men and women whose leadership, innovation, and drive have created businesses that we all admire today.
However, I couldn’t seem to land on just one, until I thought about their origins. They were all small business owners at some point. They all took a risk, invested their time, money, and energy into an idea that might revolutionize their community, possibly the world…and it worked!
Not every small business owner becomes Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or Warren Buffet, most never do, but they all have something in common. They have determination, guts, strong work ethics, entrepreneurship, and drive. So, my favorite business leaders are small business owners. The men and women who risk it all to affect change in their communities, their families, and the lives of people all over the world.
Excerpt by Trent Connor
My favorite business leader is Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia because of his dedication to corporate social responsibility and sustainability. Chouinard founded the clothing brand Patagonia in 1973. Patagonia began to flourish and reach worldwide markets. Since 1986 Patagonia has donated either 1% of revenues or 10% of their revenue after tax (whichever is greater). Chouinard made it a priority to build high quality products that are made to last to reduce their carbon footprint and improve brand image. I really admire Chouinard’s commitment to his values and beliefs, while also making profit and growth a priority. Patagonia has proved that you can dominate an industry while staying true to their core values.
We stand to gain much knowledge from business owners and leaders. Each success builds upon the last step. Leading requires more than great words and ideas, it requires preparation, skill, sacrifice, and courage. Let us in on who you deem a great business leader over on our Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.