10 things business students can learn from CEOs

10 things business students can learn from CEOs

We can learn lessons throughout our lives and, although we will learn from formal classes and training, we can also pick up vital pieces of information from mentors and other people we look up to. These can be practical theories we may use either at home or at work or just different ways we can live our lives.

Plenty of us see successful company CEOs and other business leaders as the type of people we should aspire to follow and absorb what they’ve got from their successes – and their failures. If you’re studying for a business degree at any level, or you’re thinking of beginning your studies soon, you may already be observing the exploits of some of the best-known CEOs across the world.

There are several different things that you can pick up on from leading executives that can have a significant effect on your occupation if you decide to follow their advice. These are just a few lessons from such leaders that you could keep in mind as you study and kick-start your career – especially if you’re aiming to become a CEO yourself.

Employ A-list players

Steve Jobs, a founder of Apple, set high targets for his executives. Jobs used his ABC concept to make sure he dealt with only the very best, i.e., the A-list players. His belief in hiring only top people was that, as soon as a B-list player came on board, it wouldn’t be long until a C-list one would – which would continue until everything fell apart.

These A-listers will also be the best recruiters, with a better chance that they will know other people who will live and work to the same high standards they do. You should value the importance of networking and having the right human resources team.

Focus on the customer

Amazon is the standard-setter for the world on customer focus. So, follow what founder Jeff Bezos does and base your new ideas on the wishes, expectations, and complaints about your customers.

If you don’t focus on the customer, you won’t understand what’s important to them – and won’t be able to identify a unique selling point or value proposition. Amazon uses ‘personas’ with names, expectations, and fears – rather than target groups with democratic indicators – to represent the average customer. It looks for their wishes and motivating factors to develop pertinent concepts, and their success is determined by the conversion rate of prospective customers to buyers.

Prospective entrepreneurs may be learning about these lessons on MBA courses, such as those offered by Aston Online. Studying for a business qualification will equip you with the tools for success in the marketplace – so you can turn these lessons into business triumphs.

Build trust

Paul Polman, previously the CEO of Unilever, built greater consumer trust in the organization by connecting with a purpose of sustainability. As well as this, Polman saw himself as serving his employees to help them become a success, and that doing good is good for business – which is what younger generations are increasingly expecting. He also believed in speaking with shareholders about long-term successes (rather than just short-term reports) and tailored his leadership depending on the audience.

Keep growing

Satya Nadella reshaped Microsoft and its culture when he took over the brand, going on to make it the world’s most valuable company again. He believes it’s essential that people should have a growth mindset – so to keep learning and to have an open mind. One should focus on being clear in times of uncertainty and see empathy as an enabler for teamwork.

Serve others

In your role as a CEO, you will need to serve others more than they serve you. You should ask your people what they need from you, rather than thinking about what you need from them. Work out what your customers and your team require, as well as the needs of your stakeholders – then make it happen.

Be a gatekeeper

This shouldn’t be confused with delegation. You will need to be your brand’s ultimate gatekeeper, as you are both defining and setting standards. You may be pushed to compromise standards for more freedom or to move faster, but you should stay true to yourself and not be tricked into doing this.

Tell stories

Storytelling is the best way for you to get your message across. Avoid using heavy corporate language and buzzwords – but instead keep it light, humorous, and human. You will need to charm your shareholders, customers, and your team. Remember: people will relate to stories and not buzzwords.

Manage your energy as well as your time

You’ll know how important it is to budget your time – yet you may find that it’s more effective to manage your energy as well. Kathryn Minshew, CEO of The Muse, optimizes her workday by doing the tasks that require a lot of concentration during her peak hours, which are those times when she has high energy levels. She saves meetings for other times in the day. So, if you’re a morning person, for example, do those important tasks first thing and leave some of the more tedious ones until later in the day.

Delegate tasks

This is one of the best ways that you can manage your time: it can be easy to get overwhelmed by feeling you should do everything. Giving projects to other team members will lighten your load and allow you to focus on those that you do best. Entrepreneur Daniel Tan Kh goes further and suggests that not only do you delegate tasks to others, but you should trust they will take responsibility for getting them done.


Take a break (every 90 minutes)

Our bodies have an energy cycle that works at 90-minute intervals throughout the day. So, the president of the Energy Project, Tony Schwarz, proposes that you should take a break every 90 minutes to maximize your productivity.

It’s natural for our alertness levels to decrease and our attention to wander after working on a task for an hour and a half. Step away from your work for a bit the next time you feel this, instead of going for a coffee: you might be surprised at what you’ll get done in the long run.

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