20 Entrepreneurs Reveal The Leaders They Look Up To

In our societies and business, there're leaders who have demonstrated exceptionalities personalities and traits.

Some of them alive and who continue to do great things while others we only read about them.

We asked entrepreneurs and business owners their inspirational leaders and here's what they had to say;

#1-Joel Gascoigne

Photo Credit: Matt Benn

Joel Gascoigne is the co-founder and CEO of Buffer, a social media management platform. Joel's commitment to transparency has had a profound impact on the way I have chosen to build my own business. By making his companies journey, experiments, problems and even finances public I have learnt many lessons. These lessons have helped to guide some key decisions I have had to make within our company. Buffer is a great example of a remote company with strong values, something we are also striving to create. Joel has build Buffer from a small side-project into a successful international business with more than 80 staff and over $19m in annual revenue, pretty inspirational!

Thanks to Matt Benn, Soundplate!

#2- My dad

Photo Credit: Andrew Goren

There are many entrepreneurs and mentors that I admire, but my father is truly my source of inspiration and a guiding role model for me. In addition to his early career as a surgeon, Dr. Larry Goren is also a well-respected entrepreneur and the founder/CEO of Onsite Innovations, one of the largest providers of on-site occupational medical services in the United States. With incredible drive and pure passion to serve his clients, he has built a successful business from scratch, managing worksite health clinics in over 40 states, including Fortune 1000 companies. My dad is always accessible to his family, clients and employees. He prides himself on growing a responsible and ethical business, earning him the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the year award. As I started my own career, he has consistently reminded me to trust my intuition and to “do what you say and say what you do.” I do my best to learn and emulate his distinctive leadership style in my day to day role as Founder and CEO of Harmony Helper.

Thanks to Andrew Goren, Harmony Helper!

#3- Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford

Photo Credit: Gil Sommer

Mulally has been responsible for one of the major successful turnarounds in American business history, taking a financially failing Ford, and bringing it to a $11B+ net income in his last full year as CEO. Mulally reinvigorated the company, fostered innovation and steered it towards a successful path. I had the pleasure of hearing Mulally in person, and one story that stuck with me was when he spoke about his first meeting with the management team as the new CEO of Ford. He went into detail about how he was presented with projects in progress with a stoplight coding (red, yellow, green) to indicate their status. When all of the projects were presented as “green”, he abruptly stopped the meeting, and stated that if everything was on track, the company couldn't have lost $12B that year. In the next meeting, he encouraged each executive to present one red project. Through this approach, I learned that problems, delays or missed estimations are part of the business reality. Leaders need to face challenges head-on and try to solve them, not shy away from them.

Thanks to Gil Sommer, Connatix!

#4-Tony Hsieh

Photo Credit: Rune Sovndahl

Looking back, I am now realising that all the leaders I have ever admired are people that have put their clients and their employees’ happiness first. I suppose, having worked for others prior launching my own business taught me the type of a boss I wanted to be. Currently, the person I look up to, drawn inspiration from and admire the most is Tony Hsieh. Especially, ever since I read his book “Delivering Happiness”. The main concept in it is that you make yourself happy by delivering happiness to both your customers and employees. And not to my surprise, this is what lies in our company's 360-Degrees Happiness Philosophy aimed at our clients, teams and business partners. I recommend Tony’s book to every entrepreneur, budding or experience. It can help them create the company they want to lead and can help them become the leaders they want to be.

Thanks to Rune Sovndahl, Fantastic Services!

#5- Yvon Chouinard – the founder of Patagonia

Photo Credit: Pete Silvester

I look up to Yvon Chouinard – the founder of Patagonia. In the beginning, he just wanted to pursue his passion of climbing, and built products for himself and his fellow enthusiasts. When demand grew, he built a company with a view to just continue supporting climbers he employed and their families. He has become a billionaire by eschewing ‘corporate wisdom' and demonstrates that business is done best when it's based on love for the product and the community that it serves.

Thanks to Pete Silvester,!

#6-Ms. Rachel Hollis

Photo Credit: Bobbe White

I had the privilege and pleasure to attend the 1st RISE conference in 2017, hosted by Ms. Rachel Hollis. Oddly enough, my husband pointed me to RISE. He’d been reading about her on social media. She’s one smart and daring cookie. To give you an idea of her growing nation, there were 250 attendees. (Sidebar: I was the oldest at 62. She was 33 then, so attracted a youngish crowd). Age was irrelevant. I loved it. This summer she has 4000 attended RISE in Minneapolis. It sold out in 37 minutes. They added a 2nd date in Dallas are. 8000. She rocks books to the bestseller list, best business podcast and is one of the most demanded speaker for business events. Her journey is a humble one: she “started her business with a high school diploma and a Google searchbar.” Her inspiration is genuine and her examples of how she fought to get where she’s gotten are impressive. Hard work, desire, daily goal setting and knowing her priorities.

Thanks to Bobbe White, Try Laughter! Inc.!

#7-Gary Vaynerchuk

Photo Credit: Leo Friedman

This is probably a popular choice, but I really look up to Gary Vaynerchuk (aka Gary Vee). I really like how he is down to Earth and has a no-nonsense attitude. He has inspired people everywhere to do what they love, work hard, and reach for their goals. I love how he has positioned himself as a leader in the motivational speaker industry and entrepreneurship. He is consistently thinking outside of the box and all around gives the impression of a genuine leader.

Thanks to Leo Friedman, iPromo!

#8-Ramit Sethi

Photo Credit: Alfonso Colasuonno

The most inspirational leader who I look up to is without a doubt Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Ramit's style resonates with me because he's blunt, outspoken, and relatively young. When I left my previous position in higher education to embark into the world of entrepreneurship, I had a few lingering doubts about my ability to thrive because of my youth, edgy personality, background in the punk rock scene, and desire to avoid falseness with my clients . Ramit showed me that those doubts were ridiculous and that if you go after it with a systematic approach and high-quality services, you'll be in an excellent position to succeed. I also love how Ramit has such a versatility in the topics that he covers and the products that he rolls out. I'm easily bored with one thing, so Ramit's ability to do amazing stuff in multiple realms has been and remains a huge inspiration.

Thanks to Alfonso Colasuonno, My Career Hacker!

#9-Oprah Winfrey

Photo Credit: Karina Michel Feld

Since a very young age, I remember being hugely inspired by Oprah Winfrey. I would rush home every day to watch her one hour show. I later wrote my SAT paper on her. This is a strong woman who overcome the odds as an African American woman, overcame many personal struggles and paved her OWN way into TV and film. She made it look effortless. I never knew that I would end up a producer, it was quite a journey for me up until this point, but she still remains someone I look up to and aspire to to this day. Possibly even more so now. I hope that my work can have help have the same positive impact someday. My films focus on women's issues and stories that need to be told. A highlight, was last year our business Fresh Patch was listed in Oprah's Favorite Pet Products. I hope one day I will meet her. Until then, I'll be watching Super Soul Sunday!

Thanks to Karina Michel Feld, Tallulah Films!

#10-Neil Patel

Photo Credit: Jack Paxton

I've found it important to have role models that can help guide you in decision making, behavior setting and ethics guidance. This role model can be someone you look up to or someone you actually have a relationship with, e.g.. a mentor. The person I use for this is Neil Patel. He has a fantastic value first approach to everything he does. After also talking with managers of his companies like Crazy Egg, they all have an amazing respect for him and his time.

Thanks to Jack Paxton, VYPER!

#10- Simon Sinek

Photo Credit: Scott Asai

Of all the people on my LinkedIn feed Simon consistently posts powerful quotes/stories about leadership. His motto Start with Why resonates with me as a coach because understanding someone's motivation is the key to unlocking their potential. His emphasis on servant leadership focuses on empowering others versus controlling them. Simon's content helps cultivate my personal vision which ultimately impacts people I interact with.

Thanks to Scott Asai

#11- Barack Obama – he's got it all!

Photo Credit: Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil

He's insanely intelligent, incredibly compassionate, and has the x-factor in my eyes, which is relatability. Whether he's speaking to world leaders, Harvard graduates, elementary school children, cops, firemen, janitors, teachers etc., he palpably relates to his audience, whomever they are. That to me is an unteachable quality that so few possess, and it's what I admire the most about him and the few others who share this special, innate characteristic. It's honest, authentic empathy – that inspires me!

Thanks to Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, Mudgil Dermatology!

#12-Lori Greiner

Photo Credit: Liz Jeneault

As a young entrepreneur myself, I've always looked up to business leader and investor Lori Greiner. You might know her from the show Shark Tank and from also being dubbed the Queen of QVC. I personally love QVC because I'm amazed by how much product is sold through the shopping network, and she kills it on there! I absolutely look up to Lori for what she has done not just with QVC, but also with so many entrepreneurs around the country. She has invested in things like the Squatty Potty, Scrub Daddy, and Simply Fit Board. She has also created hundreds of products and holds an impressive number of U.S. and international patents. She has an incredible eye for good packaging and knows what will help a product fly off the shelves. I think that's an impressive skill! She's a female powerhouse that can't be stopped and I will keep looking up to her throughout my journey as an entrepreneur!

Thanks to Liz Jeneault,!

#13- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Photo Credit: Amy Simpkins

She is a courageous and strong leader, and to me she epitomizes a powerful blend of compassion and logic that makes truly outstanding leadership. She fuses strength with softness, and is a great leader because she's a woman, not in spite of it. I love the way that she led by example, showed her grief, and donned a hijab in solidarity in the wake of violence against Muslims in her country. I love that she was open about her birth while in office, and the way her partner supported her in motherhood and in office. And I love that most recently, while eliminating national testing standards for public education, she laid out the arguments in a logical, concise manner, and provided a clear path forward for what her leadership would do instead. All of this was done with that uncanny fusion of empathy and drive, feminine and masculine that makes her a great, well-rounded leader.

Thanks to Amy Simpkins, muGrid Analytics!

#14- Steve Harvey

Photo Credit: Chantay Bridges

I admire him for all that he's done, what he's doing and where he has been. I admire his transparency. The fact that he is not afraid to share with others the real story that happens behind close doors when the cameras are off. How his mother encouraged him to dress well because he was not the most handsome kid on the block. Despite living in his car for three years, and his grade school teacher ridiculing him because he wanted to be on TV, he never let go of his dreams. I admire the way he negotiated his contracts in lieu of being just an employee, he was given stake in the company and producership causing his net worth to sky rocket.. I admire the way he reaches back into the community, training other individuals to not only do what he's done but to go to another level. I love that he is quick to give his wife credit for her part in his success. I admire him because he didn't forget His creator, that truly with God all things are possible and is quick to say it. He helps others to fish, he runs a foundation that is reaching youth and providing them opportunities they may never would of seen in their life time. I like the fact that he hires, employs other African American businesses and people. He is opening the door for the next generation to come through. He is changing the trajectory of being a celebrity from I'm rich, famous and fabulous, to You can be rich, famous, and fabulous to.

Thanks to Chantay Bridges, Los Angeles Real Estate Now!

#15-Tim Ferriss

Photo Credit: Tomasz Alemany

A thought leader that helped me streamline a large portion of my business and life is: Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Work Week, and The Tim Ferriss Show). I have been able to automate and eliminate many processes that do not work thanks to his insight. This has allowed me to get to a new level in many of my businesses. The most significant gain has been in time. I spend less time on meaningless tasks that do not drive my business forward, and more time enjoying my family and my personal time. This became incredibly important when I had serious health issues, and I realized the true value of life outside work.

Thanks to Tomasz Alemany, Top Whole Life!

#16-Michael Bloomberg

Photo Credit: Nate Masterson

Michael Bloomberg is a person to look up to, both professionally and personally. He’s a self-made man who’s currently worth an estimated $54.1 billion. But if that wasn’t impressive enough, Bloomberg also gives back plenty to those in need, donating billions of dollars to a variety of worthy causes. And he’s also a big environmentalist, working to fight climate change in different ways such as by pushing for clean energy and helping cities reach their climate goals. He’s a smart man who stands by his principles, and there’s a tremendous amount to learn from him.

Thanks to Nate Masterson, Maple Holistics!

#17-Barbara Corcoran

Photo Credit: Deedee Chong

As a marketing and real estate entrepreneur, I look up to Barbara Corcoran as a role model. From her rags to riches journey to her tenacity to succeed, she was able to use $1000 loan to build a billion dollar company, Corcoran. I recently attended her talk and she said, I'm great at failures. When you get kicked in the gut, pick yourself up and move on. People who feel sorry for themselves will not succeed. It's true. All entrepreneurs should have a unique trait of not feeling sorry for failures, instead, view it as a test to see how fast you can bounce back and try harder.

Thanks to Deedee Chong, Crayon HQ!

#18-Kris Jenner

Photo Credit: Misha Kaura

I look up to Kris Jenner because she’s a brilliant business strategist and arguably one of the smartest businesswomen in the world. She singlehandedly created the Kardashian empire out of a horrific case of defamation and abuse towards her daughter. Her love, passion, and compassion for her family distinguishes her as a values-based professional. I have tremendous respect for the Kardashian and Jenner families and what they have achieved. As someone who is a victim of defamation, I’m really inspired by the example set by Kris Jenner, that if an entrepreneur wants to get ahead, they have to have a thick skin and focus on their business. Because of her example, I got a television show deal on Hulu and iTunes and gained tremendous confidence.

Thanks to Misha Kaura, Darlinghurst Enterprises!

#19- Warren Buffett

Photo Credit: R.J. Weiss

The inspirational leader I admire most is Warren Buffett. When I think of Buffett, one of the first character traits I think of is integrity. Unfortunately, this is quite unique in the entrepreneurial world, as it's not easy to consistently act with integrity as short-term it may be at odds with maximizing short-term shareholder profits. However, Buffett has shown us the compounding benefits when one acts with integrity over decades and it's a lesson I think about often.

Thanks to R.J. Weiss, The Ways to Wealth!

#20- Andy Frisella

Photo Credit: Quinten Lovejoy

Andy Frisella – Co-Founder and CEO of Supplement Superstores and 1st Phorm. Andy has transformed my approach and attitude towards business by way of his #1 business podcast, the MFCEO Project. Andy takes the complex and makes it simple in a smashmouth, straightforward manner that may not be for everyone in its tone – however the MFCEO Project has granted me the permission to edit my circle of influence and become hyper-focused on the very simple tasks that lead to entrepreneurial success. Besides the tactical comes the practical. As a customer of 1st Phorm, I know that the messages Andy brings to the world on his podcast are 100% real and that they are implemented in his company's business practices. The core values that he has identified as central to 1st Phorm are evident to any customer who buys any of his products. Further, as one of the founding member of Andy's and Ed Mylett's Arete Syndicate business group, I have gotten to know each of them – and their staffs – on a personal level. In a world of fake celebrity and phony leaders, Andy Frisella is one person I take at his word.

Thanks to Quinten Lovejoy,  QSS, LLC – A Division of the Charles L. Crane Agency!

What leader do you look up to and why? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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