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What Motivates CEOs Like Tim Cook And Elon Musk To Wake Up Every Morning

What Motivates CEOs Like Tim Cook And Elon Musk To Wake Up Every Morning

Nearly all leaders of the most successful businesses eventually get asked a version of this interview question: “What drives you? What motivates you to get up in the morning?”

The answers vary, but a look at responses to that question from successful business leaders — CEOs and founders of particularly successful ventures — turns up an interesting theme.

While the leaders of many companies you’ve never heard of talk about a goal for their business (“I wake up driven to make the best company in this space, to have the most users or the biggest market cap”), most really successful leaders instead talk about goals for the broader world — for mankind, if you will.

Maybe it’s hubris. The kind of people who think they can change the world are the kind of people stubborn enough to build a huge enterprise.

But whatever the reason, many successful business leaders wake up in the morning hoping not to win the quarter for their business, but for society.

The following are four business leaders with big motivations beyond the quarterly bottom line that get them out of bed in the morning.

Creating Tools

Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook says he’s only motivated to make products if they can change the world for millions of people.

“The idea that putting powerful tools in the hands of everyday people helps unleash creativity and move humanity forward,” Cook said in a commencement address at Tulane University.

“That we can build things that help us imagine a better world and then make it real ... make it your life's work to remake the world, because there is nothing more beautiful or more worthwhile than working to leave something better for humanity.”

Guaranteeing The Future

Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) founder and CEO Elon Musk, famous for his ideas about making broad changes in how everyday people travel, has nothing short of the future of the human race on his mind as he dreams.

Musk has expounded on his personal dreams for rescuing humanity by colonizing Mars and leads a company that has set out to prove the viability of electric cars as an alternative to carbon-spewing internal combustion automobiles.

“The thing that drives me is that I want to be able to think about the future and feel good about that,” Musk said in a speech to the National Governors Association.

Democratizing Capital

Bill Clerico, the founder and CEO of payment tech company WePay, which is now owned by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), has a similar motivating vision: he doesn’t talk about building or running a company through the lens of the company, but through the eyes of potential users.

“One of the things I get really excited about is the rise of online marketplaces and crowdfunding and the way they enable small businesses and entrepreneurs to do things they never could do previously,” Clerico said in a newspaper interview a few years ago.

“That’s the democratization of capital. Places like Uber and Airbnb make it easier to start a business. You download their apps and immediately become an entrepreneur. Over the last 10 to 20 years, technology has replaced a lot of jobs, but I think this is going to re-enfranchise people. That’s what gets me up in the morning.”

Helping Communities

Former PepsiCo, Inc. (NASDAQ: PEP) CEO Indra Nooyi, who grew up in India, had a similar big picture motivation when she steered the food and beverage multinational. Nooyi ran Pepsi almost as if she were the leader of a country — and in a position to make the world a better place.

“At the end of the day, companies like ours are little republics,” Nooyi, who stepped down last year, told the Freakonomics podcast. “PepsiCo’s market capitalization makes us bigger than many countries around the world ... we have access to capabilities that many countries don’t have.

“And that’s my sincere hope: that every company views their place in society that way, and modifies the business model to be more sensitive to these countries, societies, and communities in which they operate."

Related Links:

The Legacy Of Outgoing PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi

Musk Vs. Bezos Vs. Branson: Who's Winning The Space Tourism Race?

Apple CEO Tim Cook. Photo courtesy of Apple.


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