But it takes many people devoted to a common goal, regardless of the title on their business cards, to be leaders and to make something great.
Greg Page learned a lot of what he knows about leading global agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. in the small town of Bottineau in north central North Dakota. That's where Page watched a couple of dozen townspeople devote half their waking hours volunteering for the school board, doing good work through fraternal organizations and multiple other deeds that kept his hometown running.
"There was just this cadre of people that cared so much about this little town ... my father would remind us, 'What would it be like to live here if those people didn't do those things?'"
That's where he realized it takes many people devoted to a common goal, regardless of the title on their business cards, to be leaders and to make something great.
Page, Cargill's CEO since 2007, tries to instill the same sense of ownership and purpose in Cargill employees. The first step? Communication.
"People want to own their jobs and I think to do that they have to have an understanding of what we're trying to accomplish," Page said. He said he thinks getting that message across is somewhat easier for him because he came up through the ranks at Cargill, joining the company as a trainee in 1974. As one employee put it: "[He] seems like one of us."
Right at Home. That's the name of Paul Blom's company -- and a perfect description of how he feels leading the business. He's the winner of a top leadership award for the second year in a row. Blom's employees describe him as positive, caring and always available.
A corporate refugee, Blom purchased a Right at Home franchise with his partner Bob White a decade ago. The company offers elderly clients companionship, housekeeping help and assistance doing errands.
While he answers to ''CEO,'' Blom says the title still throws him.
"Who I am as a human being doesn't change when I walk into the office," he said. He certainly doesn't fit the image of a typical CEO. He can't imagine himself in a top-floor office. He runs Right at Home out of a small building across from a gas station in Bloomington. He dislikes suits. And he chooses the kitchen over the golf course for recreation, spending spring weekends canning rhubarb jam for all of his clients. This year he'll can more than 500 jars.
Blom thinks authenticity is one of his keys to success. "[Leadership] is about being real," he explained. "It's about being the same person in every situation."
Would you follow Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen into a tattoo parlor?
More than 250 employees and club members around the country have, emblazoning the Anytime Fitness running man logo on arms and ankles.
The growing tradition speaks to the loyalty many feel for the co-owners of the Hastings-based, 24-hour health club company, which has grown to 1,500 locations worldwide since 2002.
The pair, who have been working together in the fitness industry for more than 20 years, encourage employees to not only challenge themselves, but also the ideas coming from the corner office.
"We ask for opinions," Mortensen said.
"We reward people who come up with the ideas to make sure they're celebrated and they receive the recognition, not us," Runyon said.
Employees say the duo fosters an environment that simultaneously promotes fun and hard work, from parties that mark landmark birthdays to incentives for coming up with solid business ideas.
"It's about wanting to come into work and have fun at what you do," Runyon said.
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