Inspiring Business Leaders 2023

What can we learn from today’s most inspiring business leaders?

They are transformers, stepping up to imagine new futures, taking their organisations to new places,  in pursuit of better futures.

Of course, there is a diverse range of business leaders to learn from – some good, others less so. My personal favourites include Anne Wojcicki at 23andMe, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, and Zhang Ruimin from Haier. Some leaders are great in some ways, but not so good otherwise. We’re inspired by the incredible ambition, and unstoppable determination of Elon Musk, yet I’m not sure I admire how he behaves or treats others.

Some people are just truly amazing people. Tan Le, for example, the Vietnamese boat refugee who became a world leading neuroscientist, or Warren Buffett, still dreaming and investing for the future, now in his nineties. Entrepreneurs have fabulous stories, like Sebastian Thrun who went from GoogleX to Udacity to Kitty Hawk, or Tobi Lütke transforming the world’s retailers. As do corporate leaders like Bernard Arnault and Mary Barra.

What can you learn from some of the world’s best leaders – their personal stories, and their business stories?

Watch these short videos …

Jessica Tan, co-CEO of Ping An … Ping An is one of the world’s largest insurance companies, based in Schenzen. Jessica Tan, with a background in consulting, joined the executive team to look at new ways to grow the business, in particular into new markets. She recognised the huge opportunity for finding a low-cost, accessible healthcare model in China and beyond. Building an ecosystem of partners – doctors, pharmacies, clinics, technologies and data experts, she has created Good Doctor, the world’s largest online healthcare platform.

Bob Iger, former chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company … from his early days as a weatherman, he transformed the company into one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. Then he retired in 2021. However at the end of 2022, Disney was struggling and the new CEO was fired. Disney’s board felt that Iger was the best person to sort out the business, and so he is back as CEO again.

Hooi Ling Tan, Grab co-founder … discusses growing the ride-hailing platform that became a “super-app” in Southeast Asia and how digitizing the region’s economy has helped empower both drivers and customers. She says success for a start-up is when the company no longer depends on its co-founders.  However, she is a constant innovator, fusing ideas from other places, typically through partners, including an e-wallet, a peer-to-peer paying system and insurance. Indeed, she sees payments as the fuel that powers her “super app”, enabling it to become the most convenient, integrated and trusted source of anything.

Read more about Hooi Ling Tan and Grab

Patrick Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods … Brown, the Stanford professor was heading towards a quiet retirement, but then stepped away from academia to start a business with a passion to eliminate animals from human food. The early years were spent on R&D seeking to create the perfect alternative to a meat-based burger. The problem was consumers loved not just the taste, but also the smell, juice and sizzle. He found his solution in heme, extracted from clover roots, which simulated the effect of blood. He has since scaled the business, starting in upmarket restaurants, then moving to fast food, then to supermarkets, then globally, in particular to Asia.


Tan Le, founder of Emotiv …  Le was a boat refugee from Vietnam, who found herself stranded with her mother in the South China Sea. Rescued by a British oil tanker, she arrived in Australia determined to make the most of every opportunity. She learnt English, worked hard, qualified as a lawyer, but was then attracted by neuroscience, Her company Emotiv is merging the human brain with technology and blurring the line between science fiction and reality. But before changing other people’s lives, she had to change her own.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO … in 2014, he stepped up to take the fading tech giant to a new place, embracing AI and cloud as engines of transformation, and turning Microsoft from a $300 million into a $2 trillion business. In particular he gave the organisation purpose and mindset – famously, a growth mindset, a concept developed by Carol Dweck and saying “I want to build an organisation of learn it alls, not know it alls”. Much else has changed in Microsoft, as he opened it up, with new collaborations and ventures in every market.


Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe co-founder & CEO …  Wojcicki started out on Wall Street, and read an analyst report that said the future of healthcare is data. She flew to Stanford, and set up 23andMe, the DNA diagnostic business. Listen to he talk on the benefits of DNA testing, and the future of medicine. Recently she went public, partnered with drugs companies to make personalised medicines, and launched a telehealth DTC business.

Bernard Arnault, LVMH chairman and CEO … Arnault is the world’s richest man and the mastermind behind the world’s biggest luxury group, LVMH. But even he had his doubters early on. He built a huge portfolio of luxury brands, which work separately but with collective benefits. One significant area of group collaboration has been in embracing digital platforms, and entering Asian markets, where young people are now the core audience.

What can you learn from these leaders – their personal stories, and their business stories?

I will add some more videos over the coming weeks.