Business Innovation and Leadership Lessons From 8 Revolutionary Entrepreneurs

Steve Jobs was famous for his ability to keep his ideas secret until the day of a product launch, while Elon Musk is known for his bombastic and ambitious announcements. These two entrepreneurs followed widely different principles for innovation and leadership, yet each enjoyed success worthy of recognition. Aspiring entrepreneurs may gain valuable insight from the principles and philosophies of Jobs, Musk, and other revolutionary business leaders.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by the University of San Diego School of Business.

How top entrepreneurs deploy effective leadership skills

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Business Innovation Supercharged

Innovators are known for doing things differently, but they each have a personal and time-tested way of conducting business.

The Challenges and Methods of Innovating

According to a PwC survey of 1,200 companies, 54% of executives struggle to align innovation and business strategies. While 61% are embracing open innovation to generate new ideas, 72% say they’re not out-innovating their competitors. What’s more, just 25% see themselves as innovation leaders.

The survey also indicated that nearly 70% of executives listed sales growth as critical for measuring innovation. Additionally, 61% felt open innovation operating models drove innovation, and 59% felt design thinking did the same.

Innovator Spotlight: Elon Musk

Co-founder and CEO of Tesla and the founder of SpaceX, Musk takes a first-principles approach that chooses an important problem unsolved due to technology constraints. He then identifies the constraints preventing a breakthrough and tests every option to eliminate them. Musk is also known for boldly announcing his ideas to attract attention, investors, human capital, and future customers. Additionally, he’s known for setting goals and monitoring them closely, overriding decisions when deemed necessary.

Innovator Spotlight: Steve Jobs

Late founder and former CEO of Apple was a big proponent of eliminating distractions and focusing Apple’s efforts on pursuing a few things to create truly exceptional products. Jobs also advocated for simplicity, which was about more than adopting a minimalist aesthetic—it was about understanding every element’s role and their potential for redefining a problem or approach. Additionally, Jobs also believed that when an opportunity was missed, it was important to go beyond the competition’s achievements instead of merely playing catch-up.

Business Innovation: Female Leadership

As successful female entrepreneurs, Sara Blakely, Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey encourage women to pursue their own entrepreneurial dreams authentically and unapologetically.

Innovator Spotlight: Sara Blakely

As founder and owner of Spanx, Sara Blakely is a proponent of not letting anyone stop you if you fully believe in your idea—something she experienced firsthand with her own product. She also believes in avoiding debt and keeping your day job until you can afford to work on your entrepreneurial idea full-time. Additionally, Blakely finds value in viewing every failure as a learning experience.

Innovator Spotlight: Arianna Huffington

The founder of Huffington Post stresses reconnecting with your sense of wonder to find inspiration as part of a successful business model. She also believes in the importance of having role models, which can help entrepreneurs silence the voice of self-doubt. Additionally, Huffington is an advocate of sleeping, as she says a lack of sleep will diminish every area of an individual’s life.

Innovator Spotlight: Oprah Winfrey

The founder and CEO of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Winfrey’s entrepreneurial model is built on being unapologetically “you” by ensuring everything you do aligns with your values. She also places value in doing your homework, citing the critical nature of understanding a business before investing. Additionally, Winfrey believes in thinking about revenue, as business-savvy entrepreneurs build their fortune by creating multiple streams of revenue.

Business Innovation Beyond Profit

Building an innovative business isn’t just about growing profits. The entrepreneurial ventures of Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Blake Mycoskie have been guided by unique and often very personal beliefs that take into consideration others’ well-being.

Innovator Spotlight: Jeff Bezos

As CEO and founder of Amazon, Bezos takes a customer-first approach in which the innovation process begins by focusing on the customer’s needs, then works backward to figure out how to meet those needs. He believes in reserving your voice and announcing ideas for innovation only once they’re ready for launch. Additionally, Bezos believes in letting employees run with an idea, even if you disagree with it.

Innovator Spotlight: Mark Zuckerberg

The CEO and co-founder of Facebook believes in being strategic about talent by hiring individuals who are strong where you are weak. He also emphasizes only hiring individuals you can see yourself working with long term. Additionally, Zuckerberg advocates for finishing projects, stating that done is better than perfect.

Innovator Spotlight: Blake Mycoskie

Mycoskie is the founder of Toms Shoes and a pioneer of the “buy one, give one” business model. His approach is built on knowing when to be flexible and when to compromise. He also believes in taking one step at a time, starting with a small goal to prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed. Additionally, Mycoskie believes in creating a mission that naturally attracts passionate customers and turns them into evangelists.


The modern business landscape is complex, dynamic and competitive. Though techniques, technologies and processes may change, the time-tested advice of these eight innovators will help entrepreneurs build a long-lasting and successful business.


Renata Ramirez
(619) 260-4658