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Perspectives on Leadership from the World's Top Business Leaders

Sharon Gillenwater

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Corporate executives at large, global companies live a rarefied existence. They also have immense responsibility. Their organizations employ thousands--sometimes hundreds of thousands--and their decisions can literally change the world. These powerful leaders come from many different backgrounds and beliefs and all have experience and perspectives on what it means--and what it takes--to lead. Here are some compelling leadership perspectives from some of the of the world’s most successful CXOs on what true leadership looks like to them.

1. Pierre Nanterme, Chairman and CEO at Accenture PLC

"Leadership is not another word for management. Leadership is inspiration, communication, and drive in a volatile world."

2. Kenneth Irvine Chenault, Chairman and CEO at American Express Company

"The physical presence of a leader is important. It shows the organization, no matter how large, cares about its [employees]. I ask them only one thing, that when they leave [a meeting with me], tell 20 people about it. I don’t care if they say, ‘Ken is a jerk,’ because at least it brings a connection. It is impossible to maintain a relationship with 70,000 people, but I don’t believe in the imperial CEO. The best organizations create thousands of leaders.”

3. William H. Miller, Jr.,  SVP and CIO at Broadcom Corporation

“I don’t spend a lot of time looking in the rearview mirror and questioning what didn’t work. Decisions might not be the best in the long run, but they are the best you could make at the time. They grow you into who you are as a leader.”

4. Surya (Sury) Kant, President, North America, United Kingdom and Europe, Tata Consultancy Services Limited, Tata Group

“I can only be successful if my people are successful, and my job is to provide all necessary means to make them successful...I see my position and the way I operate the business more like a conductor in a symphony. You have to ensure people who are individually playing their instruments can play them well, but they also must be aligned toward a bigger goal - in which case you get your symphony.” 

5. Nils Smedegaard Andersen, Group CEO at A.P. Moller - Maersk Group

“I try to make sure that people are inspired and draw on external ideas. The biggest worry I have is that people get happy with themselves and complacent. There’s a real risk of focusing inwards, where people forget the markets and think they can live in their own framework...you have to keep raising the bar...We try to stay hungry.” 

6. Lynn Good, President & CEO at Duke Energy Corporation

“I have, at times, been hard on people, especially early in my career, expecting more from them, or expecting them to react or behave as I would have, and that’s a style that I’ve had to adjust, in order to be effective. Because if you have that approach where you’re so hard on people, you don’t draw the best out of them. That can limit the effectiveness of you as a leader. There are style changes that I have had to experience over my career to continue to work on my own effectiveness as a leader.” 

Want deeper insights on the CXOs mentioned above or CXOs from the Fortune 500? We have insights like these on over 10,000 CXOs from the world’s biggest companies. Take a look at our sample profiles for a closer view at the detail you can receive.

Executive Profiles by Boardroom Insiders

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Sharon Gillenwater
Written by Sharon Gillenwater
Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent non-profits, to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.
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