Sometimes, professional inspiration can be found when you least expect it.
There are many different roads to success, but the best business leaders share a common advantage: they’ve taken to heart the mentorship and wisdom of those who have forged the way ahead of them.
We asked seven executives to share some of the advice that helped them get to the top. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Strive For Better
Chairman, President, and CEO of Middlesex Water Company Dennis Doll tells us his best advice came from a book. Although he can’t remember the title or author, one line stuck with him throughout his career — “Never stop applying for the job.” Doll says those words have kept him passionate and focused, two attributes that are absolutely essential to success in the business world.
2. Be Authentic
“Personal integrity was my father’s motivating value,” says Peter Holt, CEO of The Joint Corp. “The best business-related advice he gave me is the understanding that virtually every moment in our lives is an opportunity to influence others, and that it is your authenticity that gives people a reason to follow.”
It’s not always easy to stay grounded as you navigate the ups and downs of business, but Holt advises that remaining true to yourself will pay off in the long run.
3. Lead By Example
Robert D’Loren, Chairman and CEO of Xcel Brands, let us in on a valuable piece of advice he received years ago: “Hugh McCall was the founder of Bank of America. I had an opportunity to meet him and I asked him to define leadership. He said, ‘Leadership is getting people to do the right thing. Management is getting people to do it right. Be a leader.’ McCall’s favorite words of wisdom stress the importance of staying true to your values and leading by example.
4. Trust, But Verify
“You should trust the information, perspective, or point of view you are given, but also take the time and effort to verify critical information,” says Juergen Stark, CEO of Turtle Beach Corporation. Stark says this advice was given to him by Greg Brown, CEO of Motorola Solutions.
“It seems obvious, but it isn’t always that easy to determine what you can ‘trust’ vs. what needs a deeper look.” Exceptional leadership requires finding a balance between going with your gut and fact checking the details.
5. Take Responsibility
Michael Kauffman, CEO of Karyopharm Therapeutics, tells us the best advice he’s received came from Ken Conway, his former boss at Millennium Predictive Medicine.
“When you accept a project and when you have a goal in business, there are no excuses. You can’t blame anyone else. It’s completely your responsibility even if you perceive your authority as limited.” Kauffman says it was this determination and relentless pursuit of his goals that ultimately contributed to his success.
6. Find Good People
CEO of Harris & Harris Group Doug Jamison says he’ll never forget the advice bestowed upon him by the founder of his company: “You can’t do good business with bad people.”
Jamison tells us that finding like-minded people to work with has helped him on his path to success. It’s much harder to work with people who don’t have the same motivations and goals as you do, so seek out the ones that do — and excel together.
7. Go in With a Plan
Jim McCann, who served as CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM until June of 2016, cherishes a piece of advice he received while working for social services: “Go in with a plan. Not for life, but for the day.” McCann says these words really resonated with him. He stresses the importance of “moving in the direction of your goal without having to feel like you need to get everything done at once.”
The wisdom these seven CEOs received along their professional journeys ultimately helped them to achieve their business goals. We hope you find inspiration in their advice as you forge your own path to the top.