Top CEOs from Canada's Best Companies
Check this article out as it appears in our April Issue of Business Review Canada. Trust us, it's way cooler to read this article when you can flip through our user-friendly e-reader.
Running some of the most important companies in Canada, the top CEOs have a lot to handle. These business leaders have a wealth of experience backing their position and therefore, have led exceptional careers on the way to the top. This month, Business Review Canada highlights five top CEOs of Canada’s major markets, examining their career and the recognition they’ve received within their respective industries.
Company: Research In Motion
CEO: Mike Lazaridis
Mihalis "Mike" Lazaridis, Founder and co-CEO of Research In Motion, unique background gives him the competitive advantage perfect for the technology industry. Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Lazaridis moved to Canada at the age of 5. While getting an electrical engineering degree at the University of Waterloo in 1984, Lazaridis was awarded a $500,000 GM contract to develop a network computer control display system. Dropping out of college, Lazaridis used the GM contract, a small government grant, and a $15,000 loan from his parents to launch Research in Motion with Mike Barnstijn, and Douglas Fregin. In the early years, one of RIM’s first achievements was the development of barcodes for film. Using profits, RIM conducted wireless transmission data research which led to the development of the Blackberry. For his work, Lazaridis has been duly recognized receiving esteemed awards including an honorary Doctorate of Engineering from the University of Waterloo, Globe and Mail reader chosen 2002 Canada’s Nation Builder of the Year, and received the prestigious awards of the Order of Ontario, a government commendation that recognizes residents for conspicuous achievements in their respective fields, and was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada—recognition to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to Canada at a local or regional level.
Company: Royal Banking of Canada
CEO: Gordon Nixon
Gordon “Gord” Nixon, President and CEO of Royal Banking of Canada, started his career at Dominion Securities after graduating from Queens University. He continued at Dominion, where his role included a period of running the Tokyo office, until it was later acquired by Royal Banking of Canada. In 2000, at age 43, he was named CEO of RBC Dominion Securities. In 2001, following longtime head Anthony Fell, he was appointed CEO of Royal Bank of Canada and became a top executive for the Financial industry. After initiating major reorganization of the company and management, RBC delivered one of the best shareholder returns from 2005-2010 and emerged through the economic recession of the late 2000’s with hardly any repercussions. Nixon’s efforts are heavily acknowledged when he was named CEO of the year by the Financial Post Magazine in 2007 at the young age of 50. Nixon has also received the prestigious awards of the Order of Ontario and was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada.
Company: Eldorado Gold Corp
CEO: Paul Wright
CEO of Eldorado Gold Corp since 1999, Paul Wright has a long history of mining experience. Starting as an underground labourer in the Ontario Dome Gold mine in 1978, Wright was later promoted to mine superintendant. With job stints at Redpath Group and Granges Inc, Wright joined Eldorado with a wealth of experience in 1996. As CEO he’s led Eldorado Gold Corp into international markets, such as Turkey and Asia, and this push has taken the company into becoming the top gold-producer in China. His past hands-on experience is what differentiates him from the competition and has also been what led to major success in the field. Acknowledged as a major player in the industry, Wright received Financial Post Magazine’s CEO of the Year in 2010. Eldorado’s upcoming forecast to reaching the range of producing 1.25 million ounces of gold annually within the next four years will keep Wright as one of the top mining CEOs.
CEO: Mark Foote
Mark Foote, President and CEO of Zellers Inc. since 2008, has decades of retail experience. Known best for his leadership roles at Canadian Tire Corporation, Foote also held positions at Loblaws before joining Zellers. At Canadian Tire, Foote made serious progress for the company. Foote held positions at Canadian Tire for more than 20 years including five years as President and used that experience as a launching point into an exceptional retail career. Foote moved to Loblaws in 2001 becoming President for Core Retail Operation. Propelling through the company towards upward management, Foote was promoted to Executive Vice President of General Merchandise and then to Loblaws President and Chief Merchandising Officer in 2006. As CEO of Zellers Mark Foote has worked hard to make Zellers the discount store brand that provides the most savings for Canadians. With pricing programs such as Price-Cut, Save This Week, and price matching competitors, it’s no wonder Zellers has become the second largest chain of discount stores in Canada.
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.