Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Yes, They Did Built It and Made It Happen!

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Fred Smith – FedEx

It is time to recall how many great American leaders were pioneers who changed the World, as we know it today. There are so many positive contributions to society accomplished through the efforts of these individuals, which are often ignored or are taken granted in our daily lives. If you were to remove any one of them, the world would be quite a different place. Many were pioneers in their fields, whose innovations and inventions influenced subsequent innovations and inventions. While not inclusive, there are many notable examples.

John Dorrance (Campbell Soup) invented and marketed condensed soups to make Campbell’s a household name. Asa Candler (Coca-Cola) launched the soft drink industry with the introduction of Coca-Cola, and Milton Hershey (Hershey Foods) developed an affordable milk chocolate for mass-market consumption.

Eddie Bauer (Eddie Bauer) and L.L. Bean (L.L. Bean) pioneered the development of the sporting goods industry by creating products to meet the needs of hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, followed by Phil Knight (Nike) who felt there was a need for a better running shoe.

Related: The Productive Response to Failure

During the early 20th Century Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotels) began acquiring hotel properties in the cities, improving them and opening a market for the upper middle class customer. But it was Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn), who saw the need and opportunity for predictable quality accommodations for families on vacation. Fueled by the growth of the Baby Boomer generation, Holiday Inns grew across the country and then the world. His success influenced the creation of multiple lodging chains that followed his model.

Kemmons Wilson – Holiday Inn

Both of these leaders changed the hospitality industry by creating predictable and quality standards for hotel and motel accommodations throughout the world, vastly improving the traveler’s experience.

Related: What Does Luck Have to Do With It?

While many individuals contributed to the development of the automobile industry, the production of cheap and reliable automobiles, reliable tires and power diesel motors had an enormous impact on the shaping of America during the 20th Century. These great leaders, along with others, transformed America into a mobile society. One of the most influential is Henry Ford (Ford Motor), who didn’t invent the automobile, but changed and disrupted the automotive industry with the production of affordable and reliable cars for the mass market.

In less than 50 years after the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight in 1906, Olive Ann Beech (Beech Aircraft), William Boeing (Boeing) and Juan Trippe (Pan American Airways) pioneered the early aviation industry, from the early 1920s through the late 1940s, to launch the commercial jet age in the early 1950s.

While Beech and Boeing focused on airplane design and production, Trippe set his sights on connecting the world, first in South America, and then across the Pacific in the 1930s with his famed “China Clipper” flying boats. Trippe worked with William Allen (Boeing) after the Second World War to introduce the jet-age to commercial aviation.

Related: Did You Ever Want to Just Give Up and Quit?

Fred Smith (FedEx) designed and created a web and spoke logistics and distribution model that enabled FedEx to grow into an enormous success. At the same time he incorporated numerous and continuous improvements and innovations to drive up efficiency, while minimizing costs.

Up to 1888, if you wished to have a picture taken, you needed to visit a local photographer. If you enjoy taking pictures, you can thank George Eastman (Kodak), who developed modern photography for the average consumer.

Prior to King Gillette’s (Gillette) razor, men either went to their local barber or used a straight razor to shave. William C. Procter (Procter and Gamble) introduced Ivory Soap.

Estee Lauder

Elizabeth Arden (Elizabeth Arden) and Estée Lauder (Estée Lauder) pioneered the cosmetics industry for women, while J.C. Hall (Hallmark) created the greeting card industry into what we know it to be today, including the celebration of Valentine’s and Secretary’s Day.

While Americans rely on easy access to banking and credit services, this was not the case until the early 20th Century. For this, they can thank A.P. Giannini (Bank of America), who introduced the conveniences of modern retail banking.

Related: The Sheer Power of a Leader’s Personal Determination

Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) introduced the prototype and business model for modern franchising, as well as the efficient product of fast food. It still remains the primary benchmark model in both contemporary franchise and fast food industries.

Television, radio, print media and the Internet barrage us with countless marketing and advertising messages to buy myriads of products and services. While Henry Ford (Ford Motor) is credited with launching the Age of Consumerism, you can thank P.T. Barnum (Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus) for first introducing the principles of advertising and marketing, which are still in practice today.

Montgomery Ward (Montgomery Ward) was the first to understand, employ and apply the concept of direct mail marketing. He observed the need and opportunity as the United States population surged in the early 20th Century, providing shopping alternatives for geographically diverse populations, located primarily in rural communities where product choice was both limited and expensive.

Howard-Schultz-Starbucks

The concept of contemporary discount retailing is often credited to E.J. Korvette’s, an East Coast retail chain that operated between 1948 and 1980. However Frank Woolworth (F.W. Woolworth) “was the pioneer of price-driven retail, building an empire founded on chain stores and volume retailing. Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) applied its concepts with his own twist. Walton’s example influenced many other great leaders and the development of their companies, including Ray Kroc (McDonald’s), Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank (Home Depot), and Howard Schultz (Starbucks).

Related: Do You Have the Fortitude and Resolve to Continue?

While the Internet came into prominence in the late 1990s, many individuals failed to utilize the power of ecommerce. Those who successfully pioneered its use include Charles Schwab (Charles Schwab) in discount brokerage services, Michael Dell (Dell Computer), who developed an effective ecommerce strategy to sell computers on-line, and Jeff Bezos (Amazon), who built an on-line empire employing his ecommerce strategies, after as a financial analyst he observed a phenomenal 2400% growth in Internet usage.

If you think, these individuals didn’t do it on their own, you’re mistaken. They not only had an idea, but also had the persistence and resilience to make it happen!

Adapted from Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2012)

If you would like to learn more about the positive contributions of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

______________________________________________________________________________

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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4 Responses

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  1. The extraordinary aspect of all these grand success stories of determined entrepreneurs is the hundreds of thousands of jobs these leaders and their companies created.

    Jack Cook

    July 17, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    • The value and impact of entrepreneurs have had on America cannot be diminished by anyone, no matter their position. Every great company in existence today started with an entrepreneur. This article only was a glimpse of what they have collectively produced in wealth and jobs that benefited countless Americans.

      They weren’t just smart and they just didn’t work hard. The were visionary, persistent, determined and resilient in the face of failure, frustration, disappoint and adversity. They had the strength and courage to forge forward.

      This is true of anyone who has a dream and assumes the risk to start a business. They are what makes this country great!

      Bednarz, Timothy

      July 18, 2012 at 8:56 am

      • Yes, your point is well made that “in the beginning” was an entrepreneur”! I wholeheartedly agree. And while each of these great entrepreneurs has indeed created fantastic corporations and in that process become very wealthy, they have also enabled all of their employees with a grand opportunity to share the American dream, and begin the wealth creation process themselves. My point is that entreprenuers act as a multiplier effect for their empolyers to ehnance their own lives. Hence the Free Enterprise system is the basis for economic and social development, and not government. Thank you for so eloquently summarizing AMERICA’S GREAT ENTRERPRENEURS!

        Jack Cook

        July 18, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      • You’re right about the multiplier effect. Each entrepreneur contributes to the synergy that either supports or enables other entrepreneurs to grow or initiate a new business. It’s a system which continues to feed more energy to others, creating more jobs, income and wealth.

        Bednarz, Timothy

        July 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm


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