Key leadership advice from the greatest living business minds

Jack Bogle - Jack Doerr - Diane Von Furstenberg - Bernard Marcus- Oprah Winfrey - Eric Schmidt - Sheryl Sandberg - Bill Gates - Jeff Bezos - Sarah Blakely - Frank Gehry - Arthur Blank

These names are only a handful of the many successful business leaders featured on the Forbes' list of 100 Greatest Living Business Minds.

Each of the leaders in the list above point to people outside of themselves- role-models that transmitted invaluable lessons on their individual paths to success: bosses, spouses, coaches, friends, coworkers, and yes, even customers. Jeff Bezos noted the influence of his grandfather in his career, in particular, in how to be "resourceful":

He had a ranch in South Texas, and I would spend my summers there... by the time I was 16, of course, I was actually helping on the ranch. I could fix prolapsed cattle... we fixed windmills, and laid water pipelines, and built fences, and barns, and fixed the bulldozer that you guys talked about. And so one of the things that's so interesting about that lifestyle and about my grandfather is he did everything himself. You know, he didn't call a vet if one of the animals was sick; he figured out what to do himself.

Despite their recognized expertise, established knowledge, and proven track record, these leaders continuously turned to others for advice, guidance, and wisdom throughout their careers. In the riveting words of the late educational thinker Rita Pierson, "Every kid needs a champion!" For these great business minds, every leader needs a leader.

The Rabbinic teaching that comes to mind in this context states:

Joshua son of Perahia says, "Make for yourself a mentor...

Sound wisdom; but what kind of leader/teacher/mentor should one establish for themselves? One interpretation notes that one should establish a mentor even when that individual is equal to one's own knowledge, while another takes it one step further and advocates establishing a mentor for oneself even when that individual is less knowledgeable than oneself. What lies behind this teaching?

As often happens in our lives and careers, our subjectivity and bias blinds us when attempting to make decisions or move forward; establishing a leader or leaders for ourselves to whom we can turn or be exposed to provides for us one element we all lack:


The mentor/leader that we establish for ourselves serves as an objective observer toward our activities. These individuals are able to see from a "zoomed out" perspective, often having the ability to point out pitfalls that we ourselves would not have seen, or ask questions that we would not have been sensitive enough to ask. Ultimately, the greatness of the business minds in the list above is in their humility, in their willingness to seek advice and to establish leaders for themselves; to listen, learn, and always have whom to look up to at every stage and step along the way.

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