10 Lessons To Learn From Successful CEOs | Top 5 Project Management

10 Management Lessons from Successful CEOs

Scott Castillo

Feb 02 2018

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In order to be a great project manager, you must lean on your resources, build a strong team, and take a moment to learn from some of the world’s most innovative, rule-shattering CEOs. A CEO is not born; a CEO develops over time with drive, organization, creative thinking, and a trail of failed endeavors. But one thing they all have in common is that they excel in management. Here, these CEOs describe how they handle the most difficult elements of project management.

Tips From CEOs Who Excel at Management

1. Patricia Wilson | CEO of The Make-A-Wish Foundation

“Seek ideas from every corner of your organization.”

Your most valuable asset is your team, according to Wilson.

When it comes to the concept of development, she says to make it a team event. Allow ideas to be vetted by your team, and then let them evolve. Instead of “my idea” or “his idea”, the mission becomes “our team’s idea.”

Once your team feels ownership of an idea, they are more likely to feel an intrinsic motivation and passion to see the ideal through. Rather than following directions, they’re following instinct. Give them a project platform, such as Hubspot, where your team can work together for the ultimate collaborative effort.

2. Julia Stevanja | CEO of Style Runner

“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re doing something wrong.”

Stevanja has built the trendiest online women’s activewear website from the ground up. Today, her site is worth over $50 million dollars. What’s her secret? Ditch the ego, and be eager to learn from others! She recommends going to conferences, surrounding yourself with experts, and always being open to new ideas and approaches.

One mistake that managers often make is that they think that in order to be the “authority”, they need to be some all-knowing god. But that’s simply not that case. Your job as a manager is to assemble a team of the most talented experts and manage their voices in a way that the whole team benefits from together.

3. Elon Musk | CEO of Tesla

“Don’t be afraid of new arenas.”

As a project manager, you are the captain of the ship, and sometimes, that ship is going to sail into new waters – waters that you have never been in and have no idea how to handle…yet.

When a big project comes across your desk, instead of being terrified and overwhelmed, look at it as an opportunity for you and your team to grow and learn.

Use online project management software like Paymo where you can pull ideas and approaches to collaborate in real time from every member of your team. After all, that’s what they’re there for!

4. Mark Zuckerberg | CEO of Facebook

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”

We all know that Zuckerberg is a risk taker. His first big risk? Dropping out of Harvard to pursue his brand new website.

We’ve seen Zuckerberg’s risk-taking throughout the evolution of Facebook. He’s proactive and is regularly brings in new ideas and makes changes. He’s constantly pushing his brand to new levels and taking bigger risks – even when faced with criticism and contempt.

As a manager, know that not every decision you make is going to be celebrated because not everyone is going to share your vision. Remain dedicated to your goals, make a solid plan using a project planning template in a project management tool, and stay on course to take those risks and reap their rewards.

5. Jeff Weiner | CEO of LinkedIn

“Don’t leave the pitcher in the game for too long.”

In his 20 years of managing, Weiner has never had an employee come to him to confess to being overstressed, overworked, or feeling out of their element.

His lesson is that as a manager, it’s your job to observe your team members. Over time, if you notice an employee whose energy level decreases, whose body language changes, or whose confidence seems to plummet, it’s time to consider transitioning them up or out.

It’s tough to have that conversation or to make that move, but according to Weiner, “The least compassionate thing you could do when someone is not equipped [in their role] is to leave them in that role.”

Have a professional conversation with that employee, and give them the tools to improve. Use a project plan template to make sure that you are on the same page in terms of goals and expectations. Then, set a timeline to either meet those goals or to transition out.

6. Satya Nadella | Microsoft CEO

“You can’t take your key people out if they fail the first time, [or] pass harsh judgment without understanding the context.”

To directly follow up on Weiner’s lesson, as a manager, it’s also your job to measure whether someone is in a temporary rut or whether someone is in totally over their head.

In Nadella’s experience, if employees are terrified to make mistakes for fear that they could cost them their jobs, then they’re never going to take risks, be brave enough to think outside the box, or regain the confidence to try again.

The best success often follows the greatest failures. Give your employees the support to aim high and the project management tools to get there.

7. Carlos Ghosn | CEO of Nissan

“As the CEO, I have to take care of the short-term, mid-term and the long term.”

For project managers, it can be overwhelming to balance an entire team while taking care of the short-term and preparing for the long term. Luckily, you have technology on your side.

Take the ultra-organized project management platform, Wrike.com, for example. This online platform’s goal is to help you organize and multitask on multiple projects at one time. This kind of organizational tool translates into less stress for you and your team, and less stress allows for a clear mind to create amazing concepts for the present and the future.

8. John Stumpf | CEO of Wells Fargo

“I never set out to be CEO. I always set out to be a good team member, a good colleague.”

There’s something to be said about a team player rather than a scary, authoritative figure. When you involve your team in your project ideas and encourage them to invite you in on theirs, an unbeatable synergy is created. This ability to embrace an agile project management style where you can brainstorm with executives one day and ask for feedback from entry-level employees the next is the key to project management success.

Keep everyone involved with online project management platforms where you aren’t just the leader of a team but an active member of a team.

9. Michael Dell | CEO of Dell

“You don’t need to be a genius or a visionary, or even a college graduate for that matter, to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream.”

A few decades ago, a framework and a dream would have sounded like a bunch of baloney. But in today’s digital age, that’s all you need.

The resources to make your projects successful are out there waiting for you to put them to use! Gather your team members, organize your ideas, and pick a genius online project planner platform that makes creating the project framework a piece of cake.

We really are living in a time where if we know where to look, half of the work is done for us. We just need to fill in the blanks.

10. Howard Schultz | Former CEO of Starbucks

“If you dream small dreams, you may succeed in building something small.”

Every project begins with an idea. Whether or not your idea grows to become a world-leader in your niche or a game-changer in the market depends on how far you reach and how big you dream.

Don’t hesitate to use free project management tools and project management templates to design that dream and make it a reality. Just because the source or connection you need isn’t within your reach right now, doesn’t mean that you can’t organize a path to position it within your reach next year. Use your online resources to plan and dream big!


Project managers can learn a lot from CEOs and their professional journeys. Consider these tips from top CEOs and intergrate them into your own management style so you can be a better leader and team player.

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