In no particular order, meet examples of successful 21st century business leaders who are making/made dramatic impact in business and leadership.
- Allan Gray, South African, Founder, Allan Gray and one of the business leaders who made impact in the business world
- Mo Ibrahim, Sudanese, Founder of Celtel and one of the business leaders who made impact
- Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi, Ethiopian, Founder of Midroc Derba and one of the business leaders who made impact
- Raymond Ackerman, South African, Former Chairman, Pick ‘n Pay and one of the business leaders who made impact
- Aliko Dangote, Founder, Dangote Group and one of the business leaders who made impact
- Manu Chandaria, Chairman, Comcraft Group and one of the business leaders who made impact
- Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
- Steve Jobs
- Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
- Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn
- Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, Inc.
Allan Gray, South African, Founder, Allan Gray and one of the business leaders who made impact in the business world
As mythical and mysterious as he is reclusive, Allan Gray, 74, is the founder of Allan Gray Limited. Allan Gray Limited is the largest privately owned investment management firm in Southern Africa. The Harvard-trained money manager founded the firm as a one-man company in Cape Town in 1973. He pioneered performance related investment management fees in Southern Africa. Today, Allan Gray manages over $10 billion in investors funds. Gray is also the founder of Orbis Group, a Bermuda-based group of Mutual Funds. Gray is also one of Africa’s most generous philanthropists. In 2007 he endowed his Allan Gray Orbis Foundation with one of the largest gifts in South African history. The foundation offers full high school scholarships to South African students to cover tuition, hostel fees and living expenses.
Mo Ibrahim, Sudanese, Founder of Celtel and one of the business leaders who made impact
The Sudanese telecoms magnate bagged a PhD in mobile communications from the University of Birmingham. He worked as a communication engineer at British Telecom. In 1985, while working as a Technical Director at BT, Ibrahim helped invent the United Kingdom’s first mobile phone network. Ibrahim later went on to found MSI, a consultancy and software company; but he opened Africa to a whole new chapter when he founded Celtel, a mobile phone company. Celtel served 23 countries in Africa and the Middle East before he sold it off to MTC Kuwait. Ibrahim now devotes his energies towards his Mo Ibrahim Foundation which publishes an annual Good Governance index. Mo Ibrahim Foundation also awards $5 million annually to former African leaders who have delivered the dividends of good governance to their people.
Sheikh Mohammed Al-Amoudi, Ethiopian, Founder of Midroc Derba and one of the business leaders who made impact
The richest black person in the world is as Ethiopian as he is Saudi. Sheikh Al-Amoudi immigrated to Saudi Arabia with his parents as a child. Sheikh Al-Amoudi built a name and fortune by executing construction contracts for the Saudi Royal family. Al-Amoudi has interests in petroleum refineries and oil wells everywhere from Sweden to Morocco. These days, his largest investments are in the country of his birth: Ethiopia. Earlier this year, Al-Amoudi announced that his Midroc Derba conglomerate will be investing as much as $3.4 billion in Ethiopia. Midroc Derba’s investments in Ethiopia will in gold mines, agriculture, cement production, steel and transportation. Al-Amoudi funds and supports the Ethiopian soccer team.
Raymond Ackerman, South African, Former Chairman, Pick ‘n Pay and one of the business leaders who made impact
Ackerman, 81 got fired from his top managerial post at Checkers. He used his severance package and a bank loan to acquire 4 stores in Cape Town. The 4 stores traded under the name ‘Pick ‘n Pay’. Setting out with 175 employees, Ackerman went on to dominate South Africa’s retail markets. Pick & Pay implemented Ackerman’s now famous ‘customer sovereignty’ philosophy. Key to success in retail business: “Fight for the customer, and she will fight for you.”
Today, Ackerman’s Pick ‘n Pay is easily South Africa’s pre-eminent fast-moving consumer goods retailer. Portfolio: 450 stores in South Africa, Zambia, Mauritius and Mozambique. Staff strength: 45,000 people. Pick ‘n Pay is also an investor’s delight. According to South Africa’s Financial Mail, the company’s stock is easily the most successful long-term investment on the JSE over the past 4 decades. For perspective: $150 invested in Pick ‘n Pay in 1970 is now worth more than $150,000 today.
Aliko Dangote, Founder, Dangote Group and one of the business leaders who made impact
After studying Business Administration at the Al Azhar University in Cairo, Dangote returned home to Nigeria. At home he worked briefly with his maternal uncle in the commodities trading business. He later received a business loan from his uncle and went on to start a commodities trading outfit. The commodities trading outfit operation metamorphosed into the Dangote Group, West Africa’s largest industrial conglomerate. The group’s operations span sugar production, flour and cement across more than 11 African countries. Workforce: Over 20,000 employees.
Dangote is now divesting his food interests to devote his energies towards his cement business. Africa’s undisputed Cement King owns sub-Saharan Africa’s largest cement manufacturing plant facility in Obajana, in Kogi, Nigeria. The plant produces over 5 million Metric tonnes per annum. Dangote Cement also owns plants in Zambia, Senegal, Ethiopia and Tanzania, among other African countries. Dangote plans to list his cement business on the London Stock Exchange next year.
Manu Chandaria, Chairman, Comcraft Group and one of the business leaders who made impact
In 1916, Chandaria’s father moved to Kenya and opened up a small provisions store in Nairobi. Chandaria’s father later acquired a floundering aluminum plant. That small plant formed the building block of the Comcraft Group, a multinational industrial giant. Comcraft Group manufactures steel, aluminum and plastic products in 45 countries and employs over 40,000 people. Chandaria, 83, is the group’s chair and has spearheaded the company’s global operations for several decades. East Africa’s most respected business leader is also one of its most generous; Chandaria has reportedly given millions of dollars to causes in education, health and the arts. Also holds the title of the Elder of the Burning Spear, one of Kenya’s highest civilian honors.
Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Referred to as the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett is the CEO of diversified holding company Berkshire Hathaway Inc and one of the most influential business leaders that are changing the world He held Number 2 place on the Forbes 400 list for 15 years running until he was finally unseated in 2016 by Jeff Bezos. In July 2016 he gave away $2.9 billion to the Bill Gates & Melinda Gates’s 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. He attended New York Institute of Finance to specialize his economics background. 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.
Steven Paul Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was an American entrepreneur, business magnate, inventor, and industrial designer. He was the chair, chief executive officer (CEO), and co-founder of Apple Inc.; CEO and majority shareholder of Pixar; a member of The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors following its acquisition of Pixar; and the founder, chair, and CEO of NeXT. Jobs and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak are widely recognized as pioneers of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s.
He was born in San Francisco to parents who had to put him up for adoption at birth; he grew up in San Francisco Bay Area during the 1960s. Jobs then attended Reed College in 1972 before dropping out. He traveled through India in 1974 seeking enlightenment and studying Zen Buddhism. Jobs’s declassified FBI report stated that an acquaintance knew that Jobs had used marijuana and LSD while he was in college. Jobs once told a reporter that taking LSD was “one of the two or three most important things” he did in his life.
Jobs and Wozniak co-founded Apple in 1976 to sell Wozniak’s Apple I personal computer. The visionaries gained fame and wealth a year later for the Apple II. In 1979, after a tour of PARC, Jobs saw the commercial potential of the Xerox Alto, which was mouse-driven and had a graphical user interface. This led to development of the unsuccessful Apple Lisa in 1983, followed by the break-through Macintosh in 1984. In addition to being the first mass-produced computer with a GUI, the Macintosh introduced the sudden rise of the desktop publishing industry in 1985 with the Apple LaserWriter addition, the first laser printer to feature vector graphics. Following a long power struggle, Jobs got forced out of Apple in 1985.
Steve Jobs & Hartmut Esslinger
In 1982 Apple Computer entered into an exclusive $2,000,000 per year contract with Hartmut Esslinger to create a design strategy which transformed Apple from a “Silicon Valley Start-Up” into a global brand. Setting up shop in California for the first time, Esslinger and Frogdesign created the “Snow White design language” which was applied to all Apple product lines from 1984 to 1990, commencing with the Apple IIc and including the Macintosh computer. The original Apple IIc was acquired by the Whitney Museum of Art in New York and Time voted it Design of the Year. Soon after Steve Jobs’ departure, Esslinger broke his own contract with Apple and followed Jobs to NeXT.
After leaving Apple, Jobs took a few of its members with him to found NeXT, a computer platform development company that specialized in latest computers. In addition, Jobs helped to start development of the visual effects industry when he funded the spinout of the computer graphics division of George Lucas’s Lucasfilm in 1986. The new company, Pixar, would eventually produce the first fully computer-animated film, Toy Story—an event made possible in part because of Jobs’s financial support.
In 1997, Apple merged with NeXT. Within a few months of the merger, Jobs became CEO of his former company; he revived Apple at the verge of bankruptcy. Beginning in 1997 with the “Think different” advertising campaign, Jobs worked closely with designer Jonathan Ive to develop a line of products that would have larger cultural ramifications. They worked on the iMac, iTunes and iTunes Store, Apple Store, iPod, iPhone, App Store, and the iPad. In 2001, the original Mac OS got replaced with a completely new Mac OS X. NeXT’s NeXTSTEP platform, gave the new OS a modern Unix-based foundation for the first time.
Jobs got diagnosed with a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor in 2003 and died on October 5, 2011, of respiratory arrest related to the tumor.
Steve Jobs’s world-changing innovations and designs
Apple iMac got introduced in 1998 and its innovative design was directly the result of Jobs’s return to Apple. Apple boasted “the back of our computer looks better than the front of anyone else’s.” Described as “cartoonlike”, the first iMac, clad in Bondi Blue plastic, was unlike any personal computer that came before.
In 1999, Apple introduced the Graphite gray Apple iMac and since has varied the shape, colour and size considerably while maintaining the all-in-one design. The Apple iMac sold for $1,299 at that time. The iMac also featured some technical innovations, such as having USB ports as the only device inputs. This latter change resulted, through the iMac’s success, in the connection being popularised among third-party peripheral makers – as shown by the fact that many early USB peripherals were made of translucent plastic (to match the iMac design).
Apple began work on the first Apple phone in 2005, the first iPhone, released on June 29, 2007. The iPhone created such a sensation that a survey indicated six out of ten Americans were aware of its release. Time Magazine declared it “Invention of the Year” for 2007. The Apple iPhone is a small device with multimedia capabilities and functions as a quad-band touch screen smart phone. in July 2008, Apple released the iPhone 3G with three key features: support for GPS, 3G data and tri-band UMTS/HSDPA.
In June 2009, the iPhone 3GS, whose improvements included voice control, a better camera, and a faster processor. The iPhone 4 is thinner than earlier models, has a five megapixel camera capable of recording video in 720p HD, and adds a secondary front-facing camera for video calls. A major feature of the iPhone 4S, introduced in October 2011, was Siri, a virtual assistant capable of voice recognition.
The MacBook is a brand of portable computer manufactured by Apple Inc. from May 2006 to February 2012, and relaunched in 2015. It replaced the iBook series and 12-inch PowerBook series of notebooks as a part of the Apple-Intel transition from PowerPC. Positioned as the low end of the MacBook family, below the premium ultra-portable MacBook Air and the powerful MacBook Pro, the MacBook was aimed at the consumer and education markets. It was the best-selling Macintosh ever. For five months in 2008, it was the best-selling laptop of any brand in US retail stores. Collectively, the MacBook brand is the “world’s top-selling line of premium laptops.”
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon
Jeffrey Preston Bezos (born January 12, 1964 in Albuquerque and raised in Houston) is an American technology and retail entrepreneur, investor, electrical engineer, computer scientist, and philanthropist, best known as the founder, chair, and chief executive officer of Amazon, the world’s largest online shopping retailer.
Bezos graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. He went on to work on Wall Street in a variety of related fields from 1986 to early 1994. He founded Amazon.com in late 1994. The company began as an Internet merchant of books and expanded to a variety of products and services. It is the world’s largest Internet sales online company and provider of cloud infrastructure services. Bezos Expeditions manages a number of Bezos’s other business investments.
Bezos diversified his business interests by founding aerospace company Blue Origin in 2000. He purchased The Washington Post newspaper in 2013 for $250 million in cash. Blue Origin started test flights to space in 2015 and plans for commercial suborbital human spaceflight beginning in 2018.
On July 27, 2017, he became the world’s wealthiest person with an estimated net worth of just over $90 billion according to Forbes Magazine. His net worth surpassed $100 billion for the first time on November 24, 2017. As of February 2, 2018, he is worth $118.8 billion, and he is on track to become the wealthiest person in modern history.
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors
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 University Graduate School of Business on a GM fellowship, receiving her Masters in Business Administration degree in 1990.
Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn
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 in 2014, he has also created the means for many more entrepreneurs to become writers and authors.
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, most recently as the EVP of Yahoo’s Network Division. 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.
Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, Inc.
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.
Also published on Medium.