Best Business Role Models for Leadership

Imagine what life would be like if there was no one to admire or aspire to be like?

Thankfully, our lives are full of amazing people at every turn, who touch our lives in big and small ways. Who we become as business leaders is colored by people from our past and present, in and out of the business arenas. To shine the spotlight on some little or well-known role models your life, I asked –

Who has been your best business role model for leadership to date, and why?

From family members, famous leaders from the past, and current men and women who are changing the world, this list from our contributors will give you plenty to choose from.

This list is far from exhaustive, so I welcome your additions to the comments below. Enjoy!

1. My SheRole

My role model for leadership is Stacie Nc Grant President and CEO of CG Enterprises. Ms. Grant has a smile that is bright as the sun and she has a way of helping you in your journey that makes you feel good about yourself and everyone around you. The way she holds herself with respect and dignity makes you want to shine in her light. She is warm, open and giving of herself and that makes Ms. Stacie Nc Grant my SheRole in the business world.

Thanks to Eula M. Young, COO of Griot’s Roll Film Production & Services Inc.

2. Those Who Say/Do, “I Want To Make A Difference.”

Too many to count – my best role models for leadership are those men and women who get up every single day, weekends included, to do something that they hope will make a difference in their corners of the world. They do it without fanfare, usually without notice… and don’t need pats on the back to get it done. They usually go to bed exhausted to get up and do it again for another day. Since I live in the world of entrepreneurship, the ones I know and connect with are usually CEO’s of startups or small businesses. Against all odds, they keep plugging away. When asked why and how they keep going, they simply say that it’s because they want to make a difference.

Thanks to Linda Hughes of Entrepreneur Community Online, LLC

3. Dad Has And Continues To Teach Me Leadership

Growing up, my dad was an instrumental music teacher. It is amazing what you can learn about leadership from music & teaching. In order for a concert to be performed well, everyone must know when to come in & when to be silent. They must know their jobs & how to interact with others. In a marching band, you must know how to play without stepping on your fellow player. There are times to take the lead & times to sit back & let others shine. I watched my dad teach that to 100s of students every year. As he taught them technical skills, he also taught them life skills. So much so, that even though he has not taught for over 2 decades, he still has 100s of students who stay in contact with him & express their gratitude for the leadership they learned from him.

Thanks to Stephanie LH Calahan (@StephCalahan) of Calahan Solutions, Inc.

4. Disobedient? Congratulations!

“If you’ve gone a whole week without being disobedient, you are doing yourself and your organization a disservice.” Thus spake Tom Peters, the contrarian bestselling author/business consultant. His is a quirky approach to business, one designed to serve as floss for the plaque that accumulates when we think the same thing for too long. I’ve always admired him and when he consented to be part of my first book, “The Language of Leadership,” my admiration turned to hero-worship. I’ve knelt at his altar ever since.

Thanks to Dr. Marlene Caroselli of Center For Professional Development

5. Inspires Kings & Queens For Leadership

Since 1993, I have been a certified facilitator of the universal Kingian social change philosophy. I’ve learned to incorporate Dr. Martin Luther King’s teachings as a viable model for effective leadership.

As an entrepreneur, the inspiration that I glean most from Dr. King is his call to courage. Courageousness is absolutely essential to launch and operate a business. It requires you to develop new levels of internal fortitude.

Like Dr. King, I make no excuses for failure, take advantage of and create opportunities to cultivate my talents/resources. I also take responsibility for developing greater self-sufficiency and success.

Your business growth dreams will become realities through your strength of character, applied effort and having the consistent courage to lead ~ everyday!

Thanks to Val McLeod of Conversations With V!

6. Steve Gladis Leadership Partners Makes A Difference

Dr. Steve Gladis came into my life about three years ago due to a common linkage to UVA. His work specializes in executive coaching, leadership development, and public speaking. I’ve interacted with Dr. Gladis on my initial committee for my PhD, entrepreneurship projects, philanthropy work, coaching, and training; in all aspects, he has a constant focus that encourages others (including myself). Dr. Gladis makes a difference and is a business role model to me because he not only practices what he preaches, but he is always challenging me to lead more effectively, try out new strategies for leadership, and reach for bigger goals. The result, a whole lot of learning (sometimes from failure) but most importantly, true accountability to get up again after failure and thrive, instead of survive.

Thanks to Mona Anita Olsen of iMADdu (I make a difference, do you?)

7. It’s In The GENES!

My best business role models are my grandfather and mother. I didn’t really know my grandfather since he had Alzheimer’s most of my growing up years, but I always heard “of” him from everyone else. He was a self-made man with little education who became a highly successful business man, investor, and community leader. He passed the entrepreneurial spirit to my mother who is my best model for a business woman who managed to take care of the kids and do all sorts of creative things–professional storytelling, private art classes, etc.–while I was a kid. When I went to college, she went back to school and started a successful career as an interior designer. She’s a Senior now (won’t tell her “real” age b/c she’s going to read this) and is still going strong! Thanks Mom & Grandpa Murner!

Thanks to Dr. Barnsley Brown of Spirited Solutions Speaking & Coaching

8. Business Mentors Who Matter

Throughout my career I’ve invested in high-level mentorship to learn and grow. There are two role models who have impacted me the most professionally. My first big investment in myself and my business was working with Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero. We worked together to hone my direct response copywriting skills (I came from an ad agency background). From there I invested in Ali Brown who taught me (and continues to teach me) how to step into my own power and grow my business on my terms. I find that we have to have personal and professional role models in order to continually stretch ourselves and reach our potential. It’s also important to realize we’ll need different mentors for each phase of growth and to reach our various, ever-evolving goals.

Thanks to Lisa Manyon of

9. We Look Up To (the Now Married) Peter Shankman!

Peter Shankman is a great role model in business. He created HARO (Help A Reporter Out), a tri-daily email that gives companies the opportunity to gain a larger business presence and become a source for thousands of reputable media outlets. Our company has used HARO on a daily basis, and in turn, we have been featured in hundreds of different blogs, articles, and radio shows. I look up to him because he found a unique way to benefit multiple parties at the same time all while becoming a successful businessman and public speaker. Additionally, Shankman is an accomplished tri-athlete

Thanks to Michael Pesochinsky of

10. The Incredibly Influential Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., is an incredibly influential role model in business. This is a man who helped reshape the technology that we use on a daily basis and steered the computer market towards his non-computer Apple products. Mr. Jobs was a futurist who was able to look forward in time and make his vision a reality. Even when Apple wasn’t doing very well financially, he stood by his original ideas for the company and for the industry as a whole. You cannot have a discussion about business or technology without including Steve Jobs in the conversation.

Thanks to I. Aronovich of Awardable

11. Ladies And Gents . . . .The Chameleon Barry Diller

An individual who I look up to in business is Barry Diller. Barry Diller is the Chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp and was responsible for the creation of Fox Broadcasting Company and USA Broadcasting. This is someone who made a very successful transition from mastering the broadcasting world to acquiring and building from scratch loads of successful Internet properties, many of which we all use daily. Every step of this man’s career has been a paramount success and he is someone to strive to emulate it the business world.

Thanks to Eli Israel of Foreclosure Magic

12. What Do You Use That’s Owned By Amazon?

Jeff Bezos is the founder and president of the widely successful online retail store Jeff created Amazon under humble circumstances in his garage and went on to create one of the strongest online businesses available today while manufacturers would drop ship. Not only did he survive the dot-com fallout of the 1990’s but he still produces and controls much more of the Internet than most people think. What started as a site dedicated to sales, has expanded to include things like web services like streaming media, music downloads, and allowing others to sell items on the site, sort of like eBay. He is regarded as a ground-breaking leader who balances a strong personality and powerful micromanagement.

Thanks to Hans Eberstar of Auto Auctions

13. State Of Now

Jeff Pulver is someone who everyone should look up to in business. Jeff is an Internet entrepreneur who also writes extensively on telephony and Internet communication. This is a man who recognized early on the importance of how we communicate on the Internet. He was an early stockholder in Internet phone service Vonage and has become one of the most outspoken people on the topics of Internet communication and social media. Jeff has appeared in numerous publications and broadcasts discussing the subject and hosts the 140 Character Conference on the state of now. He also funds a large amount of new technology startups and exhibits an unparalleled passion with everything he does.

Thanks to Max Aronson of Government-Auctions-Guide

Thanks so much again to all our wonderful contributors for sharing your best role models for leadership in business! We hope to hear from you again. And to all our readers, if you have an innovative idea to share, we hope you will leave it in the comments below.


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