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Leadership Lessons from Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and 48 other Fortune 500 CEOs

The Fortune 500 represents the five hundred largest companies in the world. These companies together make hundreds of billions of dollars in profits every year and employ millions of people. But what’s it like being a leader in a company with over a million employees? That’s a huge responsibility. These CEOs are seasoned leaders, many of whom have led other companies to greatness before joining their current company. Some even led other Fortune 500 companies! 

From famous founder-CEOs like Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Bill Gates of Microsoft to CEOs you’ve never even heard of, each one has a unique experience and lesson to share about leadership. We’ve compiled leadership quotes from Fortune 500 CEOs – and explained what it really means for leaders in companies of all sizes. 

50: Charles F. Lowrey, CEO of Prudential Financial

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 1

Leadership quote: “There’s no better way to know a business than to begin to manage it through a crisis”

Who is Charles F. Lowrey?

Charles F. Lowrey is the CEO of Prudential Financial, which is a company that offers multiple financial services products such as insurance, loans, retirement solutions, and more. He has been in the CEO role since 2018 and oversees 50492 employees and revenues of $62.992 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with Pensions & Investments.

Quote analysis: Taking over any team when times are good feels awesome. The team is strong, profit is good, and everything seems possible. But real leaders emerge when times are tough. When everything seems to be going wrong and you can’t quite figure things out. These are the real tests of character that determine who is a winner versus loser.

Leadership lesson: Leaders are made in times of crisis. 

49: Juan Ricardo Luciano, CEO of Archer Daniels Midland

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 2

Leadership quote: “We recognize that our success as a company and as an industry relies on developing, creating and growing an inclusive culture and diverse workforce”

Who is Juan Ricardo Luciano?

Juan Ricardo Luciano is the CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, which is one of the world’s largest agricultural processors and food ingredient providers. He has been in the CEO role since 2015 and oversees 31600 employees and revenues of $64.341 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote according to Market Watch.

Quote analysis: Major companies can, and do, take a stand on diversity and inclusion at work. With studies showing that diverse companies are more profitable, more companies want to bring diversity into the workplace. But diversity is not just about identity – it’s also about life experience and the way you think, meaning that every person on the planet has their own diversity to bring to the table.

Leadership lesson: Success comes from teamwork. 

48: Ramon Laguarta, CEO of PepsiCo

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 3

Leadership quote: “At @PepsiCo, we believe in #WinningWithPurpose. Our ambition is to win sustainably in the marketplace, while doing good for the planet and our communities”

Who is Ramon Laguarta?

Ramon Laguarta is the CEO of PepsiCo, which is a beverage and snack company with multiple products around the world. He has been in the CEO role since 2018 and oversees 267000 employees and revenues of $64.661 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote on Twitter.

Quote analysis: Laguarta took over as CEO of Pepsi from one of Pepsi’s most famous CEOs, Indra Nooyi. With these big shoes to fill, this quote is all about adding purpose to the organization. That will help employees directly see how their actions connect to making the world a better place, a lesson for all leaders who want to motivate their teams.

Leadership lesson: Think about your community outside of work. 

47: Frederick W. Smith, CEO of FedEx

Frederick Smith - FedEx
Image source: FedEx

Leadership quote: “Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something”

Who is Frederick W. Smith?

Frederick W. Smith is the CEO of FedEx, which is a shipping company, famously founded from an idea in a college paper at Yale that got a C+. He has been in the CEO role since 1998 and oversees 359000 employees and revenues of $65.45 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote according to LogoMaker.

Quote analysis: It’s easy to be scared. Everyone gets scared at some things. Even the most brave people in the world feel fear sometimes. The difference is that the most brave and courageous leaders don’t let fear stop them from taking action. When you let fear stop you from taking action, fear wins. But when you act in spite of your fear, you win.

Leadership lesson: Don’t fear failure. 

46: Gregory Hayes, CEO of United Technologies

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 4

Leadership quote: “I think trying to find a rational, reasonable solution is imperative here in the near term”

Who is Gregory Hayes?

Gregory Hayes is the CEO of United Technologies, which is a technology holding company that owns tons of brands operating around the world. He has been in the CEO role since 2014 and oversees 240200 employees and revenues of $66.501 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote according to CNBC.

Quote analysis: Hayes said this as part of a conversation on United Technologies’ 2018 break up, but it holds true for almost any business problem.

Leadership lesson: Be rational and reasonable, but solutions-focused. 

45: David S. Taylor, CEO of Procter & Gamble

David Taylor - Procter and Gamble
Image source: Procter & Gamble

Leadership quote: “There’s a big space between uncomfortable enough and too uncomfortable, and that’s where growth and innovation thrive”

Who is David S. Taylor?

David S. Taylor is the CEO of Procter & Gamble, which is a global consumer packaged goods (CPG) holding company that owns many brands like Charmin and Bounty. He has been in the CEO role since 2015 and oversees 92000 employees and revenues of $66.832 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a LinkedIn post.

Quote analysis: Humans are not designed to like discomfort. Our bodies and minds react in the same way: we want it to stop. But innovation and creativity comes from being uncomfortable. If you let yourself be uncomfortable for a bit, your mind has a different reaction. Instead of trying to get out of the situation, your mind tries to solve it. That’s when you get creative solutions to problems you never thought possible.

Leadership lesson: Be ok being uncomfortable. 

44: Steven A. Kandarian, CEO of MetLife

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 5

Leadership quote: “It is important for companies to take a public stand and advocate for policies that are in the best interest of their customers, employees and shareholders”

Who is Steven A. Kandarian?

Steven A. Kandarian is the CEO of MetLife, which is a global insurance and employee benefits provider. He has been in the CEO role since 2011 and oversees 48000 employees and revenues of $67.941 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in his final shareholder’s letter before retiring.

Quote analysis: Most people have fundamental beliefs that guide their lives. These could be from childhood, from school, or developed in adulthood, but they are there. As a leader, though, many companies ask you to put your values aside and only do your job. However, that’s now what true leadership is. Leaders must stand up for their customers and their team, no matter what. Because those groups of people are what make businesses successful.

Leadership lesson: Take a stand for something. 

43: Bob Swan, CEO of Intel

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 6

Leadership quote: “We’re obviously investing in the capital required to ensure we don’t constrain our customers’ growth”

Who is Bob Swan?

Bob Swan is the CEO of Intel, which is a global technology firm that makes microchips and processors for computers. He has been in the CEO role since 2018 and oversees 107400 employees and revenues of $70.848 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in The Motley Fool’s transcript of the shareholder’s call.

Quote analysis: When customers love your business, they really love it. They can’t get enough and always want more. Companies often fight to keep up, but may fall short. If they do fall short, it’s usually because they didn’t invest enough to keep up with demand. The same goes for leaders as people – if you don’t invest in yourself, you won’t be able to keep up with demand for when everyone wants you and your work.

Leadership lesson: Invest in yourself and your team. 

42: Marvin Ellison, CEO of Lowe’s

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 7

Leadership quote: “One of our core behaviors is to show courage, and I ask you to demonstrate that by raising opportunities that need to be addressed”

Who is Marvin Ellison?

Marvin Ellison is the CEO of Lowe’s, which is a home improvement big-box store, similar to Home Depot. He has been in the CEO role since 2018 and oversees 245000 employees and revenues of $71.309 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in Business Insider’s coverage of an internal memo from Ellison to employees.

Quote analysis: Showing courage can be hard to do. For example, you may know something your boss said is wrong, but you are worried you can’t say anything because they are your boss. But leaders must always show courage, not only because it’s necessary to improve businesses but also because they need to model courage for their teams.

Leadership lesson: Be courageous and step up. 

41: David P. Abney, CEO of United Parcel Service (UPS)

David Abney - UPS
Image source: UPS

Leadership quote: “It’s no good when a company progresses more slowly than its customers”

Who is David P. Abney?

David P. Abney is the CEO of United Parcel Service (UPS), which is a shipping company that operates around the world, famous for its brown colors. He has been in the CEO role since 2014 and oversees 364575 employees and revenues of $71.861 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in CEO Magazine.

Quote analysis: Customer demands always shift with the times. Fashions change, needs change, and so do customer wants. However, the evolution of customer demand – how quickly they change their desires – also changes. And a good leader must keep up. If you don’t move as fast as your customers, you’ll be left behind. If you move too quickly, though, you may alienate your customers. It’s all about finding a balance.

Leadership lesson: Match your customers’ pace of innovation. 

40: David Brickman, CEO of Freddie Mac

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 8

Leadership quote: That being successful with one innovation means, “not sitting on our laurels when it comes to innovations”

Who is David Brickman?

David Brickman is the CEO of Freddie Mac, which is a secondary mortgage buyer that helps mortgage lenders have more cash on hand. He has been in the CEO role since 2019 and oversees 6621 employees and revenues of $73.598 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a shareholder’s call.

Quote analysis: A lot of people fight for success. But when they get it, they stop. They get lazy. Or they think they know better than everyone. While being successful once can make you a lot of money (and you can learn a lot), it’s never enough to stop completely. You always have to keep going. A good leader never assumes that being successful once means you will always be successful.

Leadership lesson: Don’t rest on your successes. 

39: Brian Cornell, CEO of Target

Brian Cornell - Target
Image source: Target

Leadership quote: “The challenges we face as a company and a society will continue to evolve, but we will keep moving”

Who is Brian Cornell?

Brian Cornell is the CEO of Target, which is an American retailer, similar to Walmart. He has been in the CEO role since 2014 and oversees 360000 employees and revenues of $75.356 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a stakeholder’s message.

Quote analysis: Change always happens, but the kind of change or type of change will, well, change. Leaders need to be ready for change in general, but it’s tough to know what kind of changes are coming down the pipe this time. However, leaders must focus on being as prepared as possible. Then, when the changes come, continue moving forward.

Leadership lesson: Never stop moving. 

38: Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM

Ginni Rometty - IBM
Image source: Council of Foreign Relations

Leadership quote: “Your value will be not what you know; it will be what you share”

Who is Ginni Rometty?

Ginni Rometty is the CEO of IBM, which is one of the oldest technology companies in the world, famous for its Watson AI computer. She has been in the CEO role since 2012 and oversees 381100 employees and revenues of $79.591 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. She said this quote at the Council of Foreign Relations.

Quote analysis: When you learn something new, the old way of doing things said that you should keep the information to yourself. Knowledge was, and still is, power, but how it’s used has changed. Where you used to profit when you were the only one who knew things, you can now profit by helping other people learn. So instead of holding everything in, the best leaders openly share.

Leadership lesson: Share your knowledge with others. 

37: Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson

Alex Gorsky - Johnson and Johnson
Image source: Johnson & Johnson

Leadership quote: “It is important to have an open dialogue with your employees, clients and other stakeholders. Psychological safety is key to all effective teams”

Who is Alex Gorsky?

Alex Gorsky is the CEO of Johnson & Johnson, which is a global brand and packaged goods holding company focused on wellbeing products. He has been in the CEO role since 2012 and oversees 135100 employees and revenues of $81.581 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote to Wharton student Robert Chen.

Quote analysis: The concept of psychological safety is fairly new in the workplace, and means that people feel they can share their opinions without being attacked or mocked for it. Leaders want to create as much psychological safety as possible for their team because that way they can always bring their new ideas to the table. While not every idea will work or be that good, being able to bring up ideas is something you need in a company – it helps you manage the changes of the world as they come.

Leadership lesson: Always be willing to have a conversation. 

36: Michael L. Tipsord, CEO of State Farm Insurance

Michael Tipsord - State Farm
Image source: State Farm Insurance

Leadership quote: “Our success in serving our customers, that is what will ultimately determine the opportunities that are available to all of us”

Who is Michael L. Tipsord?

Michael L. Tipsord is the CEO of State Farm Insurance, which is a global insurance provider for homes, cars, and more. He has been in the CEO role since 2015 and oversees 56788 employees and revenues of $81.732 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote according to a tweet by a member of State Farm’s media team.

Quote analysis: With more and more customers saying they want to take part in the business process, leaders need to consider how customers fit into the equation of leadership. It’s not just managing your team anymore – your team and your company will likely be interacting with customers on a regular basis, either in person or on the internet. That means creating a customer service mentality is crucial for success.

Leadership lesson: Serve customers first. 

35: Jim Fitterling, CEO of DuPont de Nemours, part of Dow Chemical

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 9

Leadership quote: “To be competitive, you need to have a culture that people want to come into and stay a part of”

Who is Jim Fitterling?

Jim Fitterling is the CEO of DuPont de Nemours, part of Dow Chemical, which is a global chemical manufacturing company. He has been in the CEO role since 2018 and oversees 98000 employees and revenues of $85.977 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a tweet.

Quote analysis: Not everyone knows what culture means. That’s because it has many different meanings. But all of them have one thing in common: you can feel when it’s working. So a good leader thinks about how the culture feels to themselves and their team. Because if people love the feeling and want to stay, they will do great work over the long-term. If they don’t like it, their energies will be focused on getting out of it.

Leadership lesson: Build a welcoming team culture. 

34: Michael S. Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies

Michael Dell - Dell
Image source: Dell

Leadership quote: Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people…or find a different room”

Who is Michael S. Dell?

Michael S. Dell is the CEO of Dell Technologies, which is a global manufacturer of computers and other technologies. He has been in the CEO role since 2007 and oversees 157000 employees and revenues of $90.621 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote as quoted in YourStory.

Quote analysis: In the old world, people thought the CEO was the smartest person in the company. While the CEO does need to be intelligent, they shouldn’t be the smartest person in the company. Instead, great leaders surround themselves with subject matter experts. The job of the leader, then, is not to be smarter than everyone but to bring everyone together.

Leadership lesson: Surround yourself with smart people.

33: Gail Koziara Boudreaux, CEO of Anthem

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 11

Leadership quote: “I do want to lead an enterprise where I can make a difference”

Who is Gail Koziara Boudreaux?

Gail Koziara Boudreaux is the CEO of Anthem, which is a large provider of health insurance in the United States. He has been in the CEO role since 2017 and oversees 63900 employees and revenues of $92.105 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote according to Fortune magazine.

Quote analysis: CEOs are often very, very well paid. They have strong networks and sit on company boards. They can go wherever they want if they wanted to leave their companies. But making an impact is worth more than money. In any leadership opportunity, the real focus is on how you can make an impact in the world around you – for your employees, your community, and the whole world.

Leadership lesson: Go where you can make a difference. 

32: Brian L. Roberts, CEO of Comcast

Brian Roberts - Comcast
Image source: Comcast

Leadership quote: “You have to have a business model you believe in and like”

Who is Brian L. Roberts?

Brian L. Roberts is the CEO of Comcast, which is one of the biggest providers of cable in the United States. He has been in the CEO role since 2002 and oversees 184000 employees and revenues of $94.507 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote according to BrainyQuote, a quote aggregator.

Quote analysis: Many businesses jump on a trend because they think it’s the next big thing. Or they want to seem popular and cool, like companies changing their name to match a celebrity. The real success stories, though, come from people who are doing work they believe in. It’s not about fads – it’s about being honest with what you like.

Leadership lesson: Know how your work ties to revenues. 

31: Gary R. Heminger, CEO of Marathon Petroleum

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 10

Leadership quote: “Our success is due to our committed employees and the culture we all help to create and sustain”

Who is Gary R. Heminger?

Gary R. Heminger is the CEO of Marathon Petroleum, which is a large oil refinery company. He has been in the CEO role since 2011 and oversees 60350 employees and revenues of $97.102 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote an interview with LeadersMag.

Quote analysis: It’s easy to give up. When times are tough, it can feel good to throw in the towel. However, that will never bring success. Instead, you have to stay committed to the cause and committed to doing whatever you need to in order to succeed.

Leadership lesson: Focus on creating a great culture for your team.

30: Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 12

Leadership quote: “Where our industry has fallen short before is the organic, sustainable piece of [bringing women and minorities into banking and retaining them]”

Who is Michael Corbat?

Michael Corbat is the CEO of Citigroup, which is a global bank with operations in the US and Canada. He has been in the CEO role since 2012 and oversees 204000 employees and revenues of $97.12 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with Fortune magazine.

Quote analysis: Everyone makes mistakes – no one is perfect. But it takes a strong leader to admit mistakes and admit what went wrong in the past. Taking action to solve the problem is the next step, but for many people just being able to admit a mistake is a huge step forward.

Leadership lesson: Inclusion is good for business. 

29: C. Allen Parker, CEO of Wells Fargo

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 13

Leadership quote: “I want to make the legal department of Wells Fargo a beacon for other departments in ethics”

Who is C. Allen Parker?

C. Allen Parker is the CEO of Wells Fargo, which is an American bank headquartered in California. He has been in the CEO role since 2019 and oversees 258700 employees and revenues of $101.06 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with Reuters.

Quote analysis: Wells Fargo is in the headlines for making some pretty high-profile mistakes. However, this quote is all about redemption. When something goes wrong, you don’t have to cancel it or shut it down… you can make it right.

Leadership lesson: You can rise from a deep failure. 

28: Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 14

Leadership quote: “Lives literally depend on what we do”

Who is Dennis Muilenburg?

Dennis Muilenburg is the CEO of Boeing, which is a global airplane manufacturer and the maker of the Air Force One. He has been in the CEO role since 2015 and oversees 153000 employees and revenues of $101.127 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote according to BrainyQuote, an online quote aggregator.

Quote analysis: Whether your company makes fun toys or literally keeps people alive, you need to own where you’re coming from and what you provide to the world. If you don’t, you run the risk of making a careless error that could seriously harm your business or your customers.

Leadership lesson: Own the impact of your work. 

27: Craig Menear, CEO of Home Depot

Craig Menear - Home Depot
Image source: Home Depot

Leadership quote: “We are in the project business … So, the first step is to try to protect the customer and the project. We will do everything we can to try to take other costs out of the business”

Who is Craig Menear?

Craig Menear is the CEO of Home Depot, which is a global home goods retailer focused on building and renovation projects. He has been in the CEO role since 2014 and oversees 413000 employees and revenues of $108.203 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with CNBC.

Quote analysis: Some companies think of themselves as product businesses or service businesses. Others talk about their industry – banking, insurance, manufacturing, or another industry. It takes a different way of thinking to realize that your business may be completely different from what you thought it was. But when you figure that out, great things can happen.

Leadership lesson: Think about work differently to succeed. 

26: Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Satya Nadella - Microsoft
Image source: Microsoft

Leadership quote: “Be passionate and bold. Always keep learning. You stop doing useful things if you don’t learn”

Who is Satya Nadella?

Satya Nadella is the CEO of Microsoft, which is a global technology company, famously founded by Bill Gates. He has been in the CEO role since 2014 and oversees 131000 employees and revenues of $110.36 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a 2013 interview as reported by DigitalTrends.

Quote analysis: Whenever life throws a problem at you, approach it with passion and boldness. Be unafraid to continue learning. Life will be tough at some times, but you won’t accomplish anything if you stop taking action because of fear.

Leadership lesson: Approach your work with passion. 

25: Brian T. Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America

Brian Moynihan - Bank of America
Image source: Bank of America

Leadership quote: “Listening to how customers, our employees and our shareholders answer the question “What would you like the power to do?” is how we learn what matters most to them”

Who is Brian T. Moynihan?

Brian T. Moynihan is the CEO of Bank of America, which is a large bank offering a wide variety of services across the United States. He has been in the CEO role since 2010 and oversees 204489 employees and revenues of $110.584 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a shareholder’s letter.

Quote analysis: Many companies and leaders assume they know what’s best for their customers. That’s how business used to run. But now, customers are more informed than ever. They know what they like and they want to be part of the process. Asking them questions will give you far better insight than making assumptions ever could.

Leadership lesson: Ask your customers what they want. 

24: Joseph W. Gorder, CEO of Valero Energy

Joseph Gorder - Valero
Image source: YouTube

Leadership quote: “I don’t get energized by being in large groups of people, I prefer to be in smaller groups”

Who is Joseph W. Gorder?

Joseph W. Gorder is the CEO of Valero Energy, which is the world’s largest independent petroleum refiner. He has been in the CEO role since 2014 and oversees 10261 employees and revenues of $111.407 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a talk to the San Antonio Alliance of Men.

Quote analysis: Most CEOs and other leaders are extroverts – they love working with other people. But being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re not a good leader or can’t do the job. It means that you should bring your difference with you to your role as a leader. You’ll not only be a better leader because things will feel more natural to you, you’ll inspire others like you who also thought they were different.

Leadership lesson: It’s ok to be different. 

23: Greg C. Garland, CEO of Phillips 66

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 15

Leadership quote: “Find a company you’re aligned with and that you can work for long-term – hopefully for 40 years – and that challenges you”

Who is Greg C. Garland?

Greg C. Garland is the CEO of Phillips 66, which is a diversified energy and manufacturing logistics company. He has been in the CEO role since 2012 and oversees 14200 employees and revenues of $114.217 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

Quote analysis: So many people pick places to work based on short term gains. However, it’s the long game that wins out. You’ll be working for decades in your career, so picking a place that only makes sense for a year or two means you’ll be jumping more than you want to.

Leadership lesson: Go where you’re challenged. 

22: Hugh R. Frater, CEO of Fannie Mae

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 16

Leadership quote: “The saying that we have around the company is sort of like New York City subways: if you see something, say something. If you see something that we’re doing that doesn’t make any sense, then tell us”

Who is Hugh R. Frater?

Hugh R. Frater is the CEO of Fannie Mae, which is a company that helps finance mortgage lenders, making it easier for people to get mortgages to buy homes. He has been in the CEO role since 2018 and oversees 7400 employees and revenues of $120.101 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a New York Times interview.

Quote analysis: When you see something wrong at work, it’s your responsibility to say something. Then you can work with other people to solve the problem. If you don’t, then you risk that problem growing to such a big size that it can’t be solved. If everyone speaks up, then problems can be easily solved while they are still small.

Leadership lesson: Speak up. 

21: H. Lawrence Culp Jr., CEO of General Electric

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 17

Leadership quote: “There really is no age not to embrace challenge… make your own decisions, take risks”

Who is H. Lawrence Culp Jr.?

H. Lawrence Culp Jr. is the CEO of General Electric, which is one of the oldest companies in the world. He has been in the CEO role since 2018 and oversees 283000 employees and revenues of $120.268 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with the Harbus, Harvard Business School’s student publication.

Quote analysis: No matter how old or young you are, the world is always changing and you will need to change with it. However, your age shouldn’t even be a factor – taking risks is something all humans can, and should, do.

Leadership lesson: Own your own decisions. 

20: Rodney McMullen, CEO of Kroger

Rodney McMullen - Kroger
Image source: Kroger

Leadership quote: “We have to be able to do whatever we think is appropriate to continue to grow our business”

Who is Rodney McMullen?

Rodney McMullen is the CEO of Kroger, which is a large grocery chain throughout the United States. He has been in the CEO role since 2014 and oversees 453000 employees and revenues of $121.162 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with CNBC.

Quote analysis: A business exists to serve its shareholders, provide employment, and work in the community. In order to accomplish that, leaders need to do what they have to in order to make success a reality.

Leadership lesson: Mind your business. 

19: Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon Communications

Hans Vestberg - Verizon
Image source: Hans Vestberg Twitter

Leadership quote: “We have to study new technologies so that “we may harness their power for the greater good to benefit society”

Who is Hans Vestberg?

Hans Vestberg is the CEO of Verizon Communications, which is a global communications company focused on providing phone, internet, and wireless services. He has been in the CEO role since 2018 and oversees 144500 employees and revenues of $130.863 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a press release.

Quote analysis: Vestberg talks about thinking of technology and how it could impact the world. That means leaders have a responsibility to think about how their work can create good for society. It’s not enough to create for the sake of profit.

Leadership lesson: Focus on the greater good. 

18: Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 18

Leadership quote: “Most decisions are not binary, and there are usually better answers waiting to be found if you do the analysis and involve the right people”

Who is Jamie Dimon?

Jamie Dimon is the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, which is a global bank that offers pretty much any banking service you could possibly need, from ordinary banking all the way to taking companies public. He has been in the CEO role since 2005 and oversees 256105 employees and revenues of $131.412 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a Business Insider interview.

Quote analysis: Jamie Dimon is one of the most famous CEOs of his era, constantly winning recognition for his work with JP Morgan. In the company’s long history (over a century), leaders focused on creative, new ways of solving problems. Solving those problems, though, requires the right people.

Leadership lesson: Be creative. 

17: Stefano Pessina, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 19

Leadership quote: “I don’t have the arrogance to criticize what our competitors are doing”

Who is Stefano Pessina?

Stefano Pessina is the CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, which is a global pharmacy chain that focuses on helping people achieve greater wellbeing. He has been in the CEO role since 2015 and oversees 299000 employees and revenues of $131.537 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with CNBC.

Quote analysis: It’s easy to be a critic. It’s easy to make fun of people or mock what they are doing and think you know the real way to get something done. However, mocking them will not bring you success – and if you spend your time mocking them instead of paying attention to what they do, you may fall behind.

Leadership lesson: Stay humble. 

16: Michael C. Kaufmann, CEO of Cardinal Health

Michael Kaufmann - Cardinal Health
Image source: Cardinal Health

Leadership quote: “We are committed to approaching our cost structure and operations diligently and responsibly. This includes creating a culture in which every manager is asking what we should do versus what we could do, and what we should spend versus what we could spend”

Who is Michael C. Kaufmann?

Michael C. Kaufmann is the CEO of Cardinal Health, which is a healthcare services company focused on improving the cost-effectiveness of healthcare. He has been in the CEO role since 2018 and oversees 50200 employees and revenues of $136.809 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a shareholder letter.

Quote analysis: When a leader is tasked with growing the organization, it can’t be at any cost. There are always investments that are more valuable than others, and a good leader needs to look to their team to figure out what’s helpful versus harmful spending.

Leadership lesson: Stay diligent. 

15: Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 20

Leadership quote: “You have to combine both things: invention and innovation focus, plus the company that can commercialize things and get them to people”

Who is Larry Page?

Larry Page is the CEO of Alphabet, which is the holding company for Google and its subsidiaries. He has been in the CEO role since 2015 and oversees 98771 employees and revenues of $136.819 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in a TED Talk.

Quote analysis: Being smart is not enough to be successful – you have to be able to create something and then get it to market. While being smart helps create things faster, if you don’t have the people around you to help get things to market, you won’t build a successful organization.

Leadership lesson: Help get things to market. You can’t just be the smart one. 

14: Walter Craig Jelinek, CEO of Costco Wholesale

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 21

Leadership quote: “The buck stops with me”

Who is Walter Craig Jelinek?

Walter Craig Jelinek is the CEO of Costco Wholesale, which is a large wholesale market, similar in some ways to Walmart, that sells clothing, food, and other goods. He has been in the CEO role since 2012 and oversees 194000 employees and revenues of $141.576 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with The Motley Fool.

Quote analysis: When Jelinek talks about the buck stopping with him, he means that as a leader he is ultimately responsible for what his team does and the results of those actions. If someone messes up, he has to take responsibility. And that means that as a leader he wants to make sure he makes a great place to work where smart people can make great decisions.

Leadership lesson: Act with integrity. 

13: Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 22

Leadership quote: “Do every job you’re in like you’re going to do it for the rest of your life, and demonstrate that ownership of it”

Who is Mary Barra?

Mary Barra is the CEO of General Motors, which is a global car maker and holding company, owning multiple car brands like Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac. She has been in the CEO role since 2014 and oversees 173000 employees and revenues of $147.049 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. She said this quote as quoted in Investor’s Business Daily.

Quote analysis: By talking about the assumption that you’re going to do the job for the rest of your life, this Barra means that you need to focus on the work, do a good job, and show responsibility. If you don’t, you may not get the growth opportunities to find what you’ll actually be doing for the rest of your life.

Leadership lesson: Act with commitment. 

12: James Hackett, CEO of Ford Motors

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 23

Leadership quote: “We need to attract and retain talent for the kinds of design problems we face”

Who is James Hackett?

James Hackett is the CEO of Ford Motor, which is one of the largest car manufacturers in the world, producing multiple types of vehicles from small compact cars to industrial trucks. He has been in the CEO role since 2017 and oversees 199000 employees and revenues of $160.338 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with Business Insider.

Quote analysis: Every company has challenges no matter how big and successful they get. And in order to solve problems, you need people. This quote is all about looking at the problems you want to solve then finding the right team to help you solve them.

Leadership lesson: Build strong teams focused on the problems you face. 

11: Michael Wirth, CEO of Chevron

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 24

Leadership quote: “Good times won’t last forever, so you can’t change your cost structure, or make unwise investment choices”

Who is Michael Wirth?

Michael Wirth is the CEO of Chevron, which is a global energy company that was founded as a successor company to Standard Oil, founded by John D. Rockefeller. He has been in the CEO role since 2018 and oversees 48600 employees and revenues of $166.339 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with Investor’s Business Daily.

Quote analysis: By talking about the good times, this Wirth means profit. Chevron has been a wildly profitable company, making billions over the years. But if you let success get to your head, you grow weak and lazy. Instead, let success motivate you to keep going and pushing harder. Celebrate, sure, but don’t stop working.

Leadership lesson: Don’t let the good times make you lazy. 

10: Steven Collis, CEO of AmerisourceBergen

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 25

Leadership quote: “It’s so unfortunate that people don’t recognize the responsibility they have”

Who is Steven Collis?

Steven Collis is the CEO of AmerisourceBergen, which is a leading pharmaceutical company that aims to provide innovation solutions to improve health systems. He has been in the CEO role since 2011 and oversees 20500 employees and revenues of $167.94 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote In an interview with BizJournal.

Quote analysis: No matter what your circumstances are, you probably have some sort of responsibility to someone or something. That could be your job, family, friends, or something else. But you have to recognize it and own it. Running away from responsibility is a surefire way to end up losing out in the end.

Leadership lesson: Pay attention to your responsibilities. 

9: Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 26

Leadership quote: “There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop”

Who is Randall Stephenson?

Randall Stephenson is the CEO of AT&T, which is a global wireless provider that offers things like cell phone and internet service. He has been in the CEO role since 2007 and oversees 268220 employees and revenues of $170.756 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with the New York Times.

Quote analysis: As the world changes and evolves, there will be new technologies, products, and processes that you’ve never heard of before. Learn about them. You don’t need to become an expert in everything, but if you learn a little bit every day then over time you’ll not only keep up, but get ahead of the curve.

Leadership lesson: Always be learning. 

8: Larry Merlo, CEO of CVS Health

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 27

Leadership quote: “We will challenge and disrupt the status quo”

Who is Larry Merlo?

Larry Merlo is the CEO of CVS Health, which is a national chain of pharmacies and convenience stores across the United States. He has been in the CEO role since 2011 and oversees 295000 employees and revenues of $194.579 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with CNBC.

Quote analysis: The status quo – how things are usually done – can help in a lot of ways. But if you aren’t trying to improve on it consistently then you will be left behind. Instead of being scared about change, the best thing to do is embrace it.

Leadership lesson: Don’t be afraid to disrupt. 

7: Brian S. Tyler, CEO of McKesson

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 28

Leadership quote: “Meet the needs of the patient [customer] wherever it suits them”

Who is Brian S. Tyler?

Brian S. Tyler is the CEO of McKesson, which is a large pharmaceutical and health information technology company that provides different services like care management tools and medical supplies. He has been in the CEO role since 2019 and oversees 68000 employees and revenues of $208.357 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an earnings call.

Quote analysis: McKesson is a healthcare company, so their customers are patients. However, this quote applies to any leader. If you meet the needs of your customers, they are more likely to continue buying from you. And if you meet them where it suits them – not where it suits you – then you’re even more likely to succeed. Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile for your customers. They’ll reward you for it.

Leadership lesson: Go where customers need you to. 

6: David Wichmann, CEO of UnitedHealth Group

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 29

Leadership quote: “Consistency in high-quality care, consumer experience and value build trust and loyalty”

Who is David Wichmann?

David Wichmann is the CEO of UnitedHealth Group, which is a healthcare company that helps people live healthier lives and helps make the health system work better for everyone. He has been in the CEO role since 2017 and oversees 300000 employees and revenues of $226.247 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an earnings call.

Quote analysis: It’s one of the most underrated traits in leadership and business. When you do something consistently, you compound the effects over time. You cement your work, your good deeds, and your reputation. Don’t be afraid of consistency – it’s a very, very good thing.

Leadership lesson: Focus on customers. 

5: Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com

Jeff Bezos - Amazon
Image source: Amazon

Leadership quote: “Life’s too short to hang out with people who aren’t resourceful”

Who is Jeff Bezos?

Jeff Bezos is the CEO of Amazon.com, which is a global e-commerce company that sells nearly any product you could possibly look for in the world. He has been in the CEO role since 1996 and oversees 647500 employees and revenues of $232.887 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote according to Referral Candy blog.

Quote analysis: They may not know everything, but they know how to solve challenges that come their way. Studies show that you take on the traits of the people you spend the most time with, so spending time with resourceful people will make you more resourceful over time.

Leadership lesson: Pay attention to who you spend time with. 

4: Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

Warren Buffett - Berkshire Hathaway
Image source: Berkshire Hathaway

Leadership quote: “You can’t make a good deal with a bad person”

Who is Warren Buffett?

Warren Buffett is the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which is a large holding company that invests in various companies in industries like real estate and insurance. He has been in the CEO role since 1967 and oversees 389000 employees and revenues of $247.837 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote according to Business Insider.

Quote analysis: Deals are always done with people, meaning you are working with another human (or group of humans) at the end of the day. Contracts may dictate terms, but it’s humans who choose to listen to those terms or not. If you try to do business with a bad person, there’s no amount of good terms that will help you.

Leadership lesson: Always care about the people you work with. 

3: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

Tim Cook - Apple
Image source: Apple

Leadership quote: “Let your joy be in your journey — not in some distant goal”

Who is Tim Cook?

Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple, which is global technology retailer, famous for products like the iPod, iPhone, and Mac computers. He has been in the CEO role since 2011 and oversees 132000 employees and revenues of $265.595 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote according to Acadoceo.

Quote analysis: We wall want success and to be great – or to be rich – but if you only ever care about the “end” then you’ll never be happy. This is because the “end” is always changing. You may want to be rich, but the definition of “rich” changes all the time depending on where you are and what year it is. Instead, take the advice that the journey should be as interesting as the distant end goal.

Leadership lesson: Take pleasure in the steps on the journey, don’t just focus on the destination. 

2: Darren Woods, CEO of Exxon Mobil

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 30

Leadership quote: “The way you get the most out of people and the way you get to the best solutions and the best ideas is by engaging in constructive debate with a diversity of opinions and ideas”

Who is Darren Woods?

Darren Woods is the CEO of Exxon Mobil, which is large oil and gas company. It’s one of the biggest publicly traded companies in the world. He has been in the CEO role since 2017 and oversees 71000 employees and revenues of $290.212 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with the Financial Times.

Quote analysis: Creating great solutions – even for old industries like oil and gas – requires ingenuity and creative thinking. That comes from having more people, from different backgrounds and experiences, contributing to the conversation. If everyone is the same and thinks the same, new ideas get stifled. True business success comes from multiple perspectives at the table.

Leadership lesson: Encourage diversity on your teams and encourage people to speak up. 

1: Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart

Fortune 500 CEOs leadership lesson 31

Leadership quote: “There is no growth without change, and there is no meaningful change without risk”

Who is Doug McMillon?

Doug McMillon is the CEO of Walmart, which is global discount retailer that sells everything from car tires to groceries. The company operates thousands of retail stores and has a massive e-commerce presence. He has been in the CEO role since 2014 and oversees 2200000 employees and revenues of $514.405 billion dollars as reported in the 2018/2019 fiscal year by Fortune magazine. He said this quote in an interview with Business Insider.

Quote analysis: You have to take risks whenever you want to do something worthwhile in life, even if the risks are small. This quote is all about taking that risk – and knowing that you cannot grow if you don’t. And, since the world is constantly changing and evolving, not taking risks means you are losing out.

Leadership lesson: You have to be prepared to take risks. It’s not enough just to think about it – you have to act. 

The next article begins below…

The key traits all good leaders have (that every aspiring manager should work toward)

If you’re an aspiring leader, you have a lot on your plate. Not only do you need to perform your current job well, but you also have to show leadership potential. Once you get there, the tasks get even greater because you may have a team under you (and even if you’re not a direct people manager, you’ll need to lead projects or teams). It can all be dizzying. But when thinking about the top qualities of leadership, there are a few that stand out from the pack. 

20 – The ability to think on your feet

Thinking on your feet is a top quality of leadership

This scenario could easily happen to you as a new leader or manager: the CEO wants to give you a chance to step into your role. Or perhaps you are at a client meeting and the company wants to officially introduce you to the client. 

So your manager asks you to deliver a presentation for 10 minutes on the latest project updates your team has been working on. So far, so good. But suddenly, your team is called away on an emergency and you have to go alone. Now, you aren’t speaking for 10 minutes – you need to fill the entire two hour meeting agenda. You figure this out on the ride over, so you scramble to remember roughly what everyone else was going to talk about and how you’re going to frame the fact that you’re arriving alone (after all, the client was expecting everybody). 

In another example, it’s possible that your well-thought out plan completely fails for a new marketing initiative and it’s back to the drawing board… two days before the campaign launch date. You’ve got a lot of work to do and little time for intense “brainstorming” sessions. You’ve got to think on your feet. 

Thinking on your feet like this is something that all good leaders are able to do. They know what their own messages are, but they also pay attention to everything else. It may never be necessary to turn a 10 minute presentation into a two hour one, but thinking on your feet can happen in a variety of ways. 

How to get better at thinking on your feet: There are a couple things you can do to think on your feet more efficiently. 

For one, have basic frameworks in the back of your mind that you can draw on. For example, a framework that helps you plan a talk or a framework that helps you test out new ideas. When times get tough, you can pull out these frameworks and immediately get to action. 

Secondly, be observant. Look around at what’s going on. Pay attention to what people say in meetings. Keep your ear to the ground, so the speak, to learn what other people’s initiatives are. This isn’t about spying or gossiping. Instead, it’s for your own knowledge and context. It will not only help you make your work more integrated with what everyone else is doing, you’ll also be more prepared if an emergency comes up and you need to handle it. 

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