In no particular order, I present to you the successful business leaders I consider most influential today.
Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit and one of the most influential business leaders today
Smith is the CEO of Intuit and one of the most influential business leaders in modern time. Intuit is one of the world’s largest and most successful financial software companies. More than 95 percent of Intuit revenue comes from activities within the U.S. Intuit core product, of course, is the QuickBooks accounting software that is ubiquitous to entrepreneurs. It is the financial software integrated with many company inventory management software. Intuit produced $4.7 billion in revenue for 2016 and has a market cap of about $20 billion. As a leader, Smith has fostered a culture in which the company’s 7,900-plus employees are free to take risks. Intuit employees grow by learning from their failures, as well as from their success.
Brad D. Smith was born in Huntington, West Virginia, and grew up in the nearby town, Kenova. Smith attended Ceredo-Kenova High School and was an active part of his school’s athletic department. He played football until his sophomore year when he decided to take on studying martial arts. As a senior, Smith had earned his black belt. Smith has noted that his martial arts practice continues to impact his leadership to this day.
Smith spent one semester at the United States Military Academy at West Point before enrolling in Marshall University. In 1986, Smith received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in marketing, from Marshall University.
Smith earned his master’s degree in management from Aquinas College in Michigan.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, Tesla and Solar City – Oné of the most influential business leaders today
Musk has made marks in America that are influencing the lives of millions of people worldwide. Musk has stated that his goals for SpaceX revolve around his vision to change the world and humanity.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has one very important supporter in his quest to build the future: the U.S. government, which has subsidized Musk’s companies with an estimated $4.9 billion. Space X, Tesla Motors and SolarCity maintain a public-private financing model that relies on public funding for growth, according to a report out from the Los Angeles Times on Saturday. The paper based its estimates off a variety of government incentives, including rebates to buyers of solar panels. The federal government also gives Tesla buyers a $7,500 federal income tax credit, while California grants a $2,500 rebate. However, don’t expect the subsidies to last for long. The federal government capped the $7,500 credit at a total of 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer.
Elon Reeve Musk ( born June 28, 1971) is a South African-born American business magnate, investor, engineer and inventor. He is the founder, CEO, and CTO of SpaceX; a co-founder, Series A investor, CEO, and product architect of Tesla Inc.; co-chairman of OpenAI; and founder and CEO of Neuralink. Musk is also a co-founder and former chairman of SolarCity, co-founder of Zip2. He is also the founder of X.com, which merged with Confinity and took the name PayPal.
As of October 2017, Musk has an estimated net worth of $20.8 billion. He is ranking in the 2017 Forbes 400 as the 21st wealthiest person in America. He got listed in March 2016 by Forbes as the 80th-wealthiest person in the world. In December 2016, Musk got ranked 21st on the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People. He has contributed millions of dollars to charitable organizations and has launched several philanthropic projects. These include the Musk Foundation, which has contributed to hurricane response.
Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, Inc. and one of the most influential business leaders today
Larry Page is another example of a businessperson who can persevere through any challenge. It would not be possible for Google to have achieved the growth it has accomplished on intellect alone. Page’s values as an ethical leader influenced Google’s growth. Page has been a great example of supportive leadership to his team. Page has a “don’t be evil” approach to about the customers and market the company serves. Even in the midst of media and market criticism, he has never allowed the opinions of others to sway him.
Lawrence Page (born March 26, 1973) is an American computer scientist and Internet entrepreneur who co-founded Google with Sergey Brin.
Page is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. He stepped aside as Google CEO in August 2001, in favor of Eric Schmidt. Page re-assumed the CEO role at Google in April 2011. He announced his intention to step aside a second time in July 2015 to become CEO of Alphabet. Google’s assets reorganized under Alphabet. Under Page, Alphabet is seeking to deliver major advancements in a variety of industries.
As of October 2017, Page is the 12th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$47 billion. Page is the inventor of PageRank, Google’s best-known search ranking algorithm. Page received the Marconi Prize in 2004.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple and one of the most influential business leaders today
Steve Jobs was a hard act to follow, but thus far, Tim Cook is doing a tremendous job. Rather than attempt to match the consumer-facing innovations, Cook is forging the future with his own new advances. Once misdiagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, he has become much more responsible with the challenges of his employees. He has become highly involved in charitable causes. “You kind of want to manage a technology company like you’re in the dairy business. If it gets past its freshness date, you have a problem.” -Tim Cook Click To Tweet
Timothy Donald Cook (born November 1, 1960) is an American business executive, industrial engineer, and developer. Cook is the CEO of Apple Inc., previously serving as the company’s Chief Operating Officer, under its founder Steve Jobs.
Cook joined Apple in March 1998 as senior vice president of worldwide operations. He then served as Executive Vice President of worldwide sales and operations. He became the Chief Executive on August 24, 2011 following Jobs’ death. During his tenure as the Chief Executive he has advocated for American manufacturing, and environmental preservation.
In 2014, Cook became the first Chief Executive of a Fortune 500 company to publicly identify as gay. Cook also serves on the boards of directors of Nike, Inc. and is a trustee of Duke University. In early 2012, he got awarded compensation of one million shares by Apple’s board of directors. In March 2015, he said he planned to give his entire stock fortune to charity.
Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn and one of the most influential business leaders today
As CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner has taken great pride in the culture of the company. He has grown LinkedIn to more than 400 million users. LinkedIn has now been acquired by Microsoft in a deal worth $26 billion. Weiner’s values define his strategy in leadership. By opening the LinkedIn platform to long-form publishing, he has also created the means for many to become writers.
Jeffrey “Jeff” Weiner (born February 21, 1970) is an American business person. Weiner graduated from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics.
Weiner served in various business leadership roles at Yahoo for over seven years beginning in 2001. As EVP of Yahoo, he led a team of over 3,000 employees, managing products reaching over 500 million consumers. While serving Yahoo’s Network Division, he was part of the Search leadership team. The Search leadership team he a was a part of, directed the acquisition and integration of Inktomi, AltaVista, and FAST.
He started with LinkedIn on December 15, 2008, as Interim President.
Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and one of the most influential business leaders today
Referred to as the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett is the CEO of diversified holding company Berkshire Hathaway Inc. He held Number 2 place on the Forbes 400 list for 15 years. In July 2016 he gave away $2.9 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and his families’ foundations, making him one of the world’s most prolific philanthropists. He is known for continuing to live in the home in Omaha that he purchased for $31,500 in 1958.
Warren Edward Buffett (born August 30, 1930) is an American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. Some consider him to be one of the most successful investors in the world. As of August 2017 is the second wealthiest person in the United States. He is also the fourth wealthiest in the world, with a total net worth of $81.1 billion.
Born in Omaha, Buffett developed an interest in business and investing in his youth. He eventually entering the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1947. He transferred and graduated from University of Nebraska–Lincoln at the age of 19. Buffett went on to enroll and graduate from Columbia University where he learned and eventually molded his investment philosophy around a concept pioneered by Benjamin Graham–value investing. He attended New York Institute of Finance to specialize his economics background and soon after began various business partnerships, including one with Graham. After meeting Charlie Munger, Buffett created the Buffett Partnership. His firm would eventually acquire a textile manufacturing firm called Berkshire Hathaway and assume its name to create a diversified holding company.
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors and one of the most powerful women in business today
In early 2016, Mary Barra, the first woman CEO of GM. GM is one of several beleaguered auto manufacturers that suffered heavy losses during the Great Recession in 2009-2010, had made such great strides in the company’s recovery that she became Chairman of the company as well. Recently forced to cut 2,000 jobs due to slowing demand for two GM models, the company turned around and announced it will invest $900 million to gear up for new job creation at three U.S. plants. Most recently, Barra is a member of President Donald Trump’s Policy Advisory team to guide him on policies for more job creation, economic growth and productivity.
Mary Teresa Barra (née Makela; born December 24, 1961) has held the General Motors Company CEO post since January 15, 2014, and she is the first female CEO of a major global automaker. On December 10, 2013, GM named her to succeed Dan Akerson as Chief Executive Officer, and before that, Barra served as the Executive Vice President of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain at General Motors.
Barra was born in Royal Oak, Michigan. Her father, Ray Mäkela, worked as a die maker at Pontiac for 39 years. Barra’s parents are of Finnish descent. Barra attended Waterford schools in Waterford, Michigan. She is a graduate of Waterford Mott High School.
Barra graduated from the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University), where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering. She then attended Stanford Graduate School of Business on a GM fellowship, receiving her Masters in Business Administration degree in 1990.
Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corporation and one of the most influential business leaders today
Rupert Murdoch is a self-made and hard-driven Australia-born founder, chair and CEO of News Corporation. He continues to work unbelievably hard at an age when most would have retired long ago.
Keith Rupert Murdoch, AC KCSG (born 11 March 1931) is an Australian-born American media mogul. His father, Sir Keith Murdoch, had been a reporter, editor, and senior executive of the Herald and Weekly Times newspaper publishing company, covering all Australian states except New South Wales. After his father’s death in 1952, Murdoch declined to join his late father’s registered public company. He created his own private company, News Limited. Murdoch thus had full control as Chairman and CEO of global media holding company News Corporation, now the world’s second-largest media conglomerate, and its successors, News Corp and 21st Century Fox, after the conglomerate split on 28 June 2013.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Murdoch acquired a number of newspapers in Australia and New Zealand, before expanding into the United Kingdom in 1969, taking over the News of the World, followed closely by The Sun. Murdoch moved to New York City in 1974, to expand into the U.S. market; however, he retained interests in Australia and Britain. In 1981, Murdoch bought The Times, his first British broadsheet, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen (and as a result, gave up Australian citizenship) in 1985 to satisfy the law for U.S. television ownership.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook and one of the most influential business leaders today
Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (born May 14, 1984) is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. He is a co-founder of Facebook. Zuckerberg now operates as Facebook’s chair and chief executive officer. He has an estimated net worth of US $74.2 billion as of November 2017. Forbes ranked him as the fifth richest person in the world in 2016.
Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard University dormitory room on February 4, 2004. College roommates and fellow Harvard students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes assisted Zuckerberg on Facebook. The group then introduced Facebook to other college campuses. Facebook expanded rapidly, reaching one billion users by 2012. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg got involved in various legal disputes brought by others in the group, who claimed a share of the company based upon their involvement during the development phase of Facebook.
In December 2012, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced that over the course of their lives they would give most of their wealth to “advancing human potential and promoting equality” in the spirit of The Giving Pledge. On December 1, 2015, they announced they would eventually give 99 percent of their Facebook shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Since 2010, Time magazine has named Zuckerberg among the 100 wealthiest and most influential people in the world. In December 2016, Forbes ranked Zuckerberg 10th on Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People.
Michael Dell, Founder, Chairman & CEO of Dell Technologies and one of the most influential business leaders today
Michael Saul Dell (born February 23, 1965) is an American business person, investor, philanthropist, and author. He is the founder and CEO of Dell Technologies. Dell is one of the world’s largest technology infrastructure companies. Forbes ranked Michael Dell as the 37th richest person in the world. He has a net worth of US$20.8 billion as of February 2017.
In 2011, his 243.35 million shares of Dell Inc. stock were worth $3.5 billion, giving him 12% ownership of the company. MSD Capital, a firm whose name incorporates Dell’s initials manages his remaining wealth of roughly $10 billion and has invested in other companies. On January 5, 2013, an announcement said that Michael Dell had bid to take Dell Inc. private for $24.4 billion in the biggest management buyout since the Great Recession. Dell Inc. officially went private on October 29, 2013.
On October 12, 2015, Dell Inc. announced its intent to acquire the enterprise software and storage company EMC Corporation. At $67 billion, it is the “highest-valued tech acquisition in history”. In September 7, 2016 the acquisition closed.
Bill Gates, Chief Software Architect & Technology Adviser of Microsoft and one of the most influential business leaders today
William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, investor, author, philanthropist, humanitarian, and principal founder of the Microsoft Corporation. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of chair, CEO and chief software architect, while also being the largest individual shareholder until May 2014.
In 1975, Gates and Paul Allen launched Microsoft, which became the world’s largest PC software company. Gates led the company as chief executive officer until stepping down in January 2000. Gates remained as chairman of Microsoft Corporation and created the chief software architect position for himself.
In June 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He gradually transferred his duties to Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie. He stepped down as chairman of Microsoft in February 2014. Gates has now assumed a new post as technology adviser to support the newly appointed CEO Satya Nadella.
Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. He has been criticized for his business tactics, which have been considered anti-competitive. This opinion has been upheld by many court rulings. Later in his career, Gates pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors. He donated large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Since 1987, Gates has been included in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people, an index of the wealthiest documented people, excluding and ranking against those with wealth that is not able to be completely ascertained.
From 1995 to 2017, he held the Forbes title of the richest person in the world all but four of those years, and held it consistently from March 2014 – July 2017, with an estimated net worth of US$89.9 billion as of October 2017. However, on July 27, 2017, and since October 27, 2017, he has been surpassed by Jeff Bezos.
In 2009, Gates and Warren Buffett founded The Giving Pledge. Through The Giving Pledge, Gates and other billionaires pledge to give at least half of their wealth to philanthropy. The foundation works to save lives and improve global health, and is working with Rotary International to end polio. As of February 17, 2018, Gates had a net worth of $91.7 billion. Gates is the second richest person in the world.
Melinda Gates suggested that people should emulate the philanthropic efforts of the Salwen family, which had sold its home and given away half of its value, as detailed in The Power of Half. Gates and his wife invited Joan Salwen to Seattle to speak about what the family had done, and on December 9, 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates, and investor Warren Buffett signed a commitment they called the “Giving Pledge.” The pledge is a commitment by all three to donate at least half of their wealth over the course of time to charity.
Gates has also provided personal donations to educational institutions. In 1999, Gates donated $20 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the construction of a computer laboratory named the “William H. Gates Building” that was designed by architect Frank Gehry. While Microsoft had previously given financial support to the institution, this was the first personal donation received from Gates.
The Maxwell Dworkin Laboratory of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is named after the mothers of both Gates and Microsoft President Steven A. Ballmer, both of whom were students (Ballmer was a member of the School’s graduating class of 1977, while Gates left his studies for Microsoft), and donated funds for the laboratory’s construction. Gates also donated $6 million to the construction of the Gates Computer Science Building, completed in January 1996, on the campus of Stanford University. The building has the Computer Science Department (CSD) and the Computer Systems Laboratory (CSL) of Stanford’s Engineering department.
On August 15, 2014, Bill Gates posted a video of himself on Facebook in which he is seen dumping a bucket of ice water on his head. Gates posted the video after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg challenged him to do so to raise awareness for the disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
Since about 2005, Bill Gates and his foundation have taken an interest in solving global sanitation problems. For example, they announced the “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge”, which has received considerable media interest. To raise awareness for the topic of sanitation and possible solutions, Gates drank water that was “produced from human feces” in 2014 – in fact it was produced from a sewage sludge treatment process called the Omni-processor. In early 2015, he also appeared with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show and challenged him to see if he could taste the difference between this reclaimed water or bottled water.
In November 2017, Gates said he would give $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund, a venture capital that seeks treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. He also pledged an extra $50 million to start-up ventures working in Alzheimer’s research.
Bill and Melinda Gates have said that they intend to leave their three children $10 million each as their inheritance. With only $30 million kept in the family, they seem to be on a course to give away about 99.96 percent of their wealth.
Who are your own examples of the most influential in the business world today? I look forward to hearing your additions and feedback to my selections in the comment section below.
Also published on Medium.