Categorized | Workplace

Corporate Hero Worship

Posted on 19 February 2009

American workers look up to these pioneers.

America loves heroes. Whether it’s Benjamin Franklin, Christopher Columbus, or Amelia Earhart, these unconventional people achieved extraordinary feats and in the process changed the course of history and our lives.

What about heroes in the business world? Though none have supernatural powers, these modern heroes have reached the pinnacle of their careers, as well as managed to inspire and positively affect lives of others. See what it takes to be a corporate hero.

Jack Welch, CEO, General Electric

As the top dog of the world’s most valuable company, Welch is consistently referred to as America’s most admired CEO and the No. 1 manager. His company employs over 313,000 people in more than 100 countries and is responsible for providing the world with household appliances, industrial and power equipment, medical systems, financial services, and entertainment. Welch is credited with reshaping and revolutionizing the way General Electric (GE) does business. His famous motto is “if you can’t be No. 1 or No. 2 in your business, that business should be fixed, sold, or closed down.”

Bill Gates is seldom given credit for being one of America’s top philanthropists.

Welch is also passionate about teaching what he has learned and meets regularly with executives at GE’s different divisions. His passion for excellence not only propelled GE to be one of the most profitable companies in history, but also influenced many business leaders worldwide. In fact, chief executives at companies such as 3M, Home Depot, McDonnell Douglas, Honeywell, and Corning are all executives who once worked under Welch.

  • Why do we love him? Welch’s hard work and constant goal of stretching to be the best puts him in a class by himself. His attitude of excellence not only positively influenced those around him but also impacts and elevates that of his workforce. He is a leader’s leader.

Oprah Winfrey, CEO, Harpo Entertainment

Oprah Winfrey’s inspiring rise to fame overcame a difficult and tumultuous childhood and upbringing. Today, as one of the most powerful women in the entertainment world, Winfrey is an Emmy-winning (33 times) talk show host for the highest-rated talk show in history: “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” According to Time Magazine, the show is seen in over 132 countries and reaches 22 million American viewers weekly. She was nominated for an Oscar for her work in The Color Purple. She founded Harpo (“Oprah” spelled backwards) Entertainment Group in 1986 and has since launched O, The Oprah Magazine, produced feature films, started the Oprah Book Club, and co-founded the Oxygen Network. In 1994, President Clinton signed the “Oprah Bill,” a law designed to protect children from abuse.

  • Why do we love her? Winfrey has inspired America. Using her popular persona and talk show as a platform, she has launched countless campaigns to raise awareness for various social issues and philanthropic endeavors that touched many lives. Her constant desire to push herself and others to achieve their best is inspiration enough to get her on the list.

Bill Gates, Chairman, Microsoft

As the co-founder of arguably the world’s most powerful company and the reigning number one on Forbes wealthiest list, Gates is often the subject of much scrutiny. Microsoft’s software dominates the marketplace. Windows, Microsoft’s operating system, literally operates over 95 percent of the PC’s in the world. Explorer and Microsoft Office, the company’s web browser and business productivity software, are the most popular software in their respective categories in the world.

Undoubtedly, Microsoft’s products have transformed the way people work. In the process, Microsoft has created enormous wealth for its employees and its investors. While the media often concentrates on Gates’ wealth and his company’s practices, Gates is seldom given credit for being one of America’s top philanthropists. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of America’s largest foundations in history. He and his wife have endowed more than $21 billion to support philanthropic initiatives in the areas of global health and learning.

  • Why do we love him? Gates transformed the software and the PC industries. His company made complex technology easier and more cost effective. His foundation’s donations to organizations such as the United Negro College Fund, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Johns Hopkins University, Save the Children Federation, and the United Nations Foundation will doubtless better many lives for generations to come.

These American heroes have made the world a better place. They’ve changed the way we do business as well as demonstrated what can be accomplished in the corporate marketplace. How do you measure up? Look at your own accomplishment and goals. Perhaps you, too, can be a corporate hero. Any takers?

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