Four fundamental leadership lessons from the world’s top bosses

Posted on Feb 18th, 2015 | Running a business

There are a lot of things that influence how much you enjoy your job, but one of the most important is how you get on with your boss.

Even if you’re currently self-employed, almost everyone has had a bad boss at some point. Whether it’s the head chef in a constant rage at the restaurant you used to work at in your teens, or that manipulative middle manager that used you to fob off all their faults and failings.

When you (inevitably) become so successful that you need to take on an employee yourself, you’ll find that management is pretty tricky and there’s a real risk of the hater becoming the hated, if you’re not careful.

So how can you avoid this? For inspiration, we looked up the top four most-liked bosses in the world, as rated by the users of

The other social media guy


Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has historically featured high up the list of most-loved CEOs, coming first in Glassdoor’s “Favourite bosses” of 2013. But he’s since slipped down a few places to be replaced with this other giant of social media: LinkedIn boss, Jeff Weiner.

Jeff styles himself more of a guru than a dictator. He’s famously said in interviews that, for him, “leadership is the ability to inspire others to achieve shared objectives” and that “managers tell people what to do. Leaders inspire them to do it.”

He encourages his staff to seek inspiration every day by taking a couple of hours out of their work schedules to “just sit and think”. He says that if you can’t find the time for this, then you’re working too hard and need to think about restructuring your time.

It’s his compassion and personal involvement with staff that set him apart from other bosses. Remember, your employees are people, too, and you should treat them as such.

The patriarch


When Alan Mulally inherited the presidency of Ford motor company in 2006, the business was plagued by a warring and inefficient internal corporate culture and it was facing its biggest ever annual loss in its 103-year history.

Nine years on, Ford’s stock price has rebounded and the company has reported a profit every year since 2009. Much of this has to do with how Alan completely overhauled a toxic and outdated system, combining Ford’s many international offices into “One Ford” – the motto for his leadership of the company.

In an interview with McKinsey management consultancy, Alan said:

“We are a global company, so we really have to stay focused on the work. There are so many people around the world involved in our daily operations that it has to be about more than a single person—it truly has to be about the business.”

The lesson here is to remember that your team is your family. Just like a real family, you all have vested interests in each other, so it’s important to work together. As a boss, you should foster that environment in your workplace.

The Personnel Relations specialist


It stands to reason that the founder and CEO of the world’s biggest PR agency would know how to handle his own image within his company. Richard Edelman scores a whopping 97% approval rating from his employees.

Here’s how Richard summed up his advice to CEOs on his very own blog:

  • Call and write – instead of just elusively emailing everyone.
  • Get into the field – go to client meetings with your staff.
  • Remain humble – show your employees that you’re just a normal person.
  • Have a sense of humour – crack a joke, don’t be a robot.
  • Give your senior team real latitude – trust people you delegate tasks to and don’t be a control freak.
  • Be recruiting all of the time – keep wooing your staff and making them feel wanted, even after they’re recruited.
  • Don’t be afraid to admit error – put your hand up and admit when you’ve done something wrong.
  • Be ambitious – show your staff that you have great ambitions for them and the company.
  • Lead from the front – make an effort to show yourself around the office.
  • Be an omnivore – show you have interests outside of the company and share them with your staff.

The Compassionate Executive Officer


In 2012, Hurricane Sandy swept across the west Atlantic, killing 233 people across 8 different countries. It was the second most costly hurricane in US history, after Hurricane Katrina, causing an estimated $68 billion of damage.

The storm affected 18 offices and millions of clients of life insurance firm Northwestern Mutual, so CEO John Schlifske decided to do something about it. To help victims of the disaster, John donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross. He also challenged Northwestern Mutual’s 5,000 employees and 18,000 members of its network offices to match the gift dollar-for-dollar by donating through its Red Cross website.

In a press release, John said:

“One in four of our clients and their families were disrupted by this disaster. Mobilizing the recovery effort is deeply personal for us. This is a time for strong companies and caring individuals to do the right thing and help people who have urgent needs.”

These top four CEOs have one thing in common – they make sure their staff see their human side.

As a company boss, you obviously have to put business interests high up on your list of priorities – but it’s a complete disaster if your staff begin to think you don’t care about them.

A cared-for team will work harder and stay for longer, making the business more efficient and ultimately saving you time and money.

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Written by Nick Chowdrey

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