5 Leadership Lessons From Harvard Business Review's Top 3 CEOs

By James Mills, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International

Leaders are successful to the degree they are self-aware, understand people and appreciate the impact their role has on others.

Harvard Business Review has recently published its latest list of the 100 best-performing CEOs. These rankings also included their company's performance in the areas of environmental and social impact as well as governance. The CEOs in the 2016 list have been in the job for an average of 17 years and overall generated a 2,091% return on their stock (20.2% annual return). So what did this year's top 3 CEOs have to share in relation to why they have achieved what they have? Aspiring CEOs and ambitious career professionals take note!

The Key To a CEO's Success Is Their Team

"To be honest, I think we’re highly overrated. At least in my business, success is far more of a team effort than the public would like to believe, especially in America... My influence, through collaboration with my management team, will be assessed in 15 or 20 years, and only then will people be able to determine whether we made the right choices. Plenty of people will be willing to throw stones at us then. Again, I’m against this personalising of CEOs. It’s very much a team effort. And to be honest, the success we’ve had during my tenure is due in large part to decisions that were made by my predecessor."

- Lars Rebien Sørensen, CEO of Novo Nordisk

Emotional Intelligence Is Critical For Leading & Motivating Others

"In managing a company, you of course need to be rational. I lead a company with more than 150,000 employees and millions of customers. But I’m gradually learning to be less rational and more emotional. Motivating people and generating 
a sense of spirit inside a company are essential parts of the CEO’s role. We need to appeal to our employees’ emotions to help create an environment where they can innovate."

- Pablo Isla, CEO of Inditex


Doing The Right Thing Makes Long-Term Business Sense

"John Browne, who used to run BP, put it simply: Doing good is good business if you’re in business for the long-term. Our company is focused on the long-term. We take into account every one of our stakeholders: our people, our customers, our clients, the government, NGOs, suppliers, pressure groups. Everything we say or do could appear on the front page of the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal or in Harvard Business Review. We have to think about the implications of what we do in the broadest possible way."

- Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP

Be Open To Growing, Developing & Being Challenged

"For me, it’s been a phenomenal personal journey. I’ve worked for this company for 34 years. I used to be an operational leader. But I’ve had to transform myself, to go from being very good at what I was doing technically, with domain expertise, to being a generalist—and then constantly being challenged."

- Lars Rebien Sørensen, CEO of Novo Nordisk

Physical Fitness, Mental Health & Quality Relationships Enable Better Work/Life Balance 

"It’s difficult to find the right work/life balance as the CEO of a global company. You need to work hard and travel often. For me, the most important thing is exercising early in the morning as often as possible, which is essential for my physical and mental health. And to try to have a family life, even if I have to focus more on the quality than the quantity of time."

- Pablo Isla, CEO of Inditex

Although these lessons came from CEOs, we don't need to be responsible for leading thousands of people to benefit from applying these pieces of advice. Imagine the difference it would make to have a team of positive people backing you in your career, having the ability to inspire others, having the strength to make responsible decisions, striving to be the best you can be and having the self-discipline to keep healthy... pretty awesome, right? 🙂

You can learn more about the CEOs and how they were selected in this HBR article. 

How To Apply This!

    What is the one piece of advice that you feel would benefit you the most in your career?

    Building a supportive teamImproving your emotional intelligenceMaking responsible decisionsIncreasing your ability to be challengedImproving your work/life balance

    Would you value connecting with others who have similar aims to inspire you to achieve your career goals next year?

    Yes pleaseNo thank you

    For Non Members:

    First Name:
    Last Name:

    Want More Inspiring Wisdom Like This?

    Sign up to receive complimentary insights from legends, to then apply in your life, career or business!

    Learn From The Greats As a Member of The Legends Report!   

    Join the legends Report

    Members Login

    Related Posts

    Legendary Careers

    Latest News