Employers Resource

Inspiring Quotes from 7 Famous Business Leaders


You might already know the names of some of these famous business leaders, but I’m willing to bet that you’ll still learn a thing or two here. These are some of the most successful people in the world and what they think, not only about topics like leadership and business, but also life, reading, learning,  employees and work.

Famous Business Leaders and Their Thoughts

Herb Kelleher – Southwest Airlines Founder

Southwest Airlines all began on a cocktail napkin in a San Antonio restaurant with Herb Kelleher, Rollin King, and John Parker. Herb is well known for his colorful personality and has created a culture of fun in his company even after his tenure as CEO. These are some of his words on business, leadership, and employees.

“You must be very patient, very persistent. The world isn’t going to shower gold coins on you just because you have a good idea. You’re going to have to work like crazy to bring that idea to the attention of people.”

“Power should be reserved for weightlifting and boats, and leadership really involves responsibility.”

“Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.”

Mary Barra – General Motors Chairperson and CEO

Mary Barra is General Motors’ current CEO and in 2015 was listed as the number one in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list.

“If we win the hearts and minds of employees, we’re going to have better business success.”

“What I always say is, ‘Do every job you’re in like you’re going to do it for the rest of your life, and demonstrate that ownership of it.’”

Warren Buffett – Berkshire Hathaway Chairperson and CEO

You definitely know his name. Warren Buffett is an American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. Some consider him to the be most successful investor in the world but he’s notoriously thrifty as well. These are some of his thoughts on success.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.”

“The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.”

Indra Nooyi – PepsiCo Chairperson and CEO

Indra has demonstrated immense leadership qualities in her position at PepsiCo. Her personal slogan is, “Performance with purpose.” These are a few of her quotes on leadership.

“To be a CEO is a calling. You should not do it because it is a job. It is a calling, and you have got to be involved in it with your head, heart, and hands. Your heart has got to be in the job; you got to love what you do; it consumes you. And if you are not willing to get into the CEO job that way, there is no point getting into it.”

“Just because you are a CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization. I’ve never forgotten that.”

Ursula Burns – Xerox Chairperson and CEO

Ursula was the CEO of Xerox from July 2009 to December 2016 and now serves as Chairman. She was raised by a single mother in a New York City housing project and grew to be the first black-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company.

“This old notion that work is drudgery is nonsense. Most days, even back when Xerox was under siege, I could not wait to get to the office.”

“Find something that you love to do, and find a place that you really like to do it in. I found something I loved to do. I’m a mechanical engineer by training, and I loved it. I still do. My son is a nuclear engineer at MIT, a junior, and I get the same vibe from him. Your work has to be compelling. You spend a lot of time doing it.”


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Satya Nadella – Microsoft CEO

Satya is a business executive currently working as the CEO of Microsoft since 2014. He’s mentioned that he’s learned a thing or two about leadership and teamwork from a young age by playing cricket.

“The one thing that I would say defines me is I love to learn. I get excited about new things. I buy more books than I read or finish.”

“Longevity in this business is about being able to reinvent yourself or invent the future.”

“Be passionate and bold. Always keep learning. You stop doing useful things if you don’t learn. So the last part to me is the key, especially if you have had some initial success. It becomes even more critical that you have the learning ‘bit’ always switched on.”

Reed Hastings – Netflix Co-Founder and CEO

Reed is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the co-founder and CEO of the well-loved video streaming service Netflix.

“Most entrepreneurial ideas will sound crazy, stupid and uneconomic, and then they’ll turn out to be right.”

“Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business.”

“I’ve worked very hard, but my life’s always been fun.”

That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? As a business owner, you started with a dream. Maybe your dream is to work hard, call the shots, and have a lot of fun in the process. At least we hope so!


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