Management mavericks: The secrets to the world’s greatest living business leader’s success
Many business leaders tend to follow in the footsteps of others, often playing it safe and not taking too many risks. But the very best leaders are innovators, breaking the mold and introducing new concepts and ways of working to their industry. So, who are today’s management mavericks?
Experts at STL Microsoft Training take a look at some of the world’s greatest living business leaders including Richard Branson, Larry Page, and Jeff Bezos and reveal what makes them leaders who broke the mold?
The research reveals the number of businesses and investments each leader is involved in, their net worth, social media following and unique approach to see who really is the world’s top boss.
Why Jeff Bezos is the greatest living business leader?
Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, is the most successful with regards to finances, with a net worth of £88bn. Despite his fortune being largely tied to his 78.9mn shares of Amazon, the net worth of Jeff Bezos continues to be on the rise due to having fingers in many other pies. According to Visual Capitalist, Jeff Bezoz has investments in 65 businesses worldwide.
However, when comparing this to Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, he manages more than 400 businesses creating a net worth of £3.6bn. However, according to companies house just 6 of these are live.
Whilst they are all successful, the businessmen with the highest net worth seem to be investing in multiple side line projects to boost their income.
However, if we were to rank them based on social media following it would seem the more successful you are the less followers you have. This can be seen as Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest individual we are discussing, has less than 650,000 followers compared to one of the lowest earners such as Richard Branson who has 12mn.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, has just the one business, creating a net worth of £564mn – the lowest of them all. However, he has 100mn followers on social media making him the most popular boss worldwide.
But what are the management secrets that make these leaders such an astonishing success?
Each business leaders unique approach:
Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Unique approach: The ‘empty chair’.
Bezos always leaves one seat open at conference tables during meetings, telling all attendees that they should consider that seat occupied by their customers – the most important person in the room.
Larry Page, Google
Unique approach: Concision.
Page is working to cultivate a faster, more nimble management approach at Google, and to this end he asks staff to give him 60-word updates or pitches on their current project, forcing them to grab his attention and convey important information in a quick and concise manner.
Tim Cook, Apple
Unique approach: Democratic leadership.
Whereas Steve Jobs got involved at every level of Apple’s design and marketing, Tim Cook delegates to more experienced team members and fosters a culture of consensus building and consented decision making.
Elon Musk, Tesla / Space X
Unique approach: Brainstorming using the ‘first principles’ method.
Elon Musk recommends relating new ideas to their fundamental principles (eg. Transportation) rather than to existing things (eg. Cars).
Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway
Unique approach: Reading and thinking.
Buffet does not believe in making impulse decisions or using trickery in his industry, instead insisting on time every day to just sit and think, or to read. This creates a sound intellectual framework for decision making and keeps emotions from corroding that framework.
Richard Branson, Virgin Group
Unique approach: Having fun.
Branson puts an emphasis on ‘personality before CV’ when hiring, and fosters a culture of fun and sharing. Across all of Virgin’s companies is a uniting ethos focused on a dedication to fun. “If you’re not having fun, then it’s probably time to call it quits.”
According to HBR, citing research from XBInsight, innovation is a crucial aspect of successful leadership. The four key skills that set innovative leaders apart from non-innovative ones are:
- Ability to successfully manage risk
- Demonstrating curiosity
- Demonstrating courageous leadership
- Passion for seizing opportunities
John Pring, Spokesperson at STL Microsoft Training said: “Becoming a powerful leader of innovative organizations rests in many critical ways on a foundation of ways of being, ways of thinking and ways of conducting yourself. The best leaders set the trends rather than follow them.
“All of these leaders have one thing in common, they have multiple side investments and are constantly innovating their current business to remain competitive in the market.”
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.