Five Executives and CEOs Share Their Leadership Secrets

What is it that separates a good company from a great company? An average leader from an inspiring leader?

In this article,  we dissect simple yet effective success principles and leadership insights from some of the world’s most successful CEOs and executives — to empower you to embed these within your company.

Whether you’re a CEO or working your way up from middle management — there’s something to learn from each of these people.

Give your team the credit – Dan Schulman, CEO of Paypal

We’ve all heard the saying there’s no ‘I’ in team – and Dan Schulman, CEO of Paypal artfully emphasises this in his comments on the important of giving your team the recognition they deserve – instead of reserving it for yourself. 

“When I came back, my team had really hung in there with me and I just realised that what we had accomplished was completely what they had accomplished. I gave them full, 100% credit. What I learned there is, giving credit to others actually attracts more and more people to your team because they want to be a part of that team because they know that it’s a team that is going to work together as one team; nobody’s going to try to take credit over somebody else. In many ways, leadership is about defining reality and inspiring hope, but if you have these great people around you and they know that what they do is going to be recognized, it can be incredibly powerful.”

Be a player, not a victim – Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook 

When things go wrong, do you have a tendency to blame others or take responsibility yourself?

This question is at the crux of Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘player vs. victim’ philosophy – that she advises all leaders to adopt and live by.

Humans have a propensity to blame others for their problems and shortcomings. When things don’t go our way, we are more inclined to look anywhere but within. When our sales are dismal, it’s due to the competition. When we don’t close a deal, it’s because the customer was narrow-minded. When a project fails, it’s because we weren’t given the right information at the right time. 

However, according to Sandberg, we must eschew the blame game at all costs. She explains, “There is no such thing as complete control….No one has complete control in any situation.”

What’s important is that we develop a practice of assuming ownership for the quality of an outcome, even when we’re working with others or subject to external factors. When we assume ownership, we become a “player.” When we don’t, we become a “victim.”

This concept of ownership is also called ‘The Locus of Control’ – read more on this here

Never stop asking ‘why’ – Marc Benioff, Co-Founder & CEO of Salesforce

Benioff is the co-founder and CEO of one of the world’s tech giants – a company that’s consistently ranked as the world’s best place to work. However he hasn’t achieved this by resting on his laurels. No matter how big or successful Salesforce has grown, he has maintained an unwavering sense of curiosity and desire to improve. 

“Everywhere I go, I keep asking “Why” Why do our customers like our product? Why do they buy from our competitors?  How can we prove we offer the better experience? And of course– How can we provide the most exceptional service possible? When I ask employees and leaders these questions, I’m not only looking for answers, but trying to study how they think. Hopefully once improvements are made by questioning the current situation, others will begin to ask why and improve the company in their own roles.”

The secret to success lies in failure – Sara Blakely, Founder & CEO of Spanx

When Sara Blakely was growing up, her father would often ask her the same question at dinnertime. “What have you failed at this week?” She was encouraged to fail, with the understanding that the only real failure in life was not trying at all. 

Blakely’s embrace of failure helped make her the youngest self-made female billionaire in America as she boldly built her fashion brand SPANX with no experience in the industry.

She often shares this same advice in interviews today, and it’s something that all leaders can learn from. Ultimately in order for your team to feel comfortable taking ownership, they need to understand that it’s ok and natural to fail sometimes. 

“Failures are life’s way of nudging you and letting you know you are off course. Trying new things and not being afraid to fail along the way are more important than what you learn in school.”

It’s ok to disagree, but still commit – Jeff Bezos, CEO & Founder of Amazon

As leaders, we sometimes need to make decisions that our team don’t necessarily agree with. On the flip-side, we also sometimes have to back our team on decisions we don’t always agree with. 

But how to do you do this without alienating your team or causing internal conflict?

Bezos has developed a philosophy to help manage this called: “disagree and commit”. 

“If you have conviction on a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, it’s helpful to say, ‘Look, I know we disagree on this but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?’”

This is one of Amazon’s core values — they even used to decide which new products to pursue, including Alexa and the Echo.

In the comments below, we’d love to know: what’s the best piece of leadership advice you have ever heard?

For more insights into becoming a greater leader, check out these articles:


More Resources

Shopping cart0
There are no products in the cart!