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Top 7 Leadership Principles of The American Oil King

Being a philanthropist and owner of the Standard Oil Company, Rockefeller became America's first billionaire in 1916. At the time, Rockefeller's fortune was worth nearly 2% of the national economy.  

To create that reputation and fortune, this man has his own management principles to lead the oil and gas industry.

Rockefeller is arguably the richest American in history.  Author Ron Chernow argues that thanks to his uncompromising leadership style, he is also one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the history of the world.  In his book “Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.” the historian Chernow argued that thanks to his uncompromising leadership style that not only helped revolutionize the oil and gas industry, but also brought him fame and huge fortune.

1- Make Schedule daily

Rockefeller schedules his day on a regular basis.  Every hour of an entrepreneur's life is "rigidly divided" and "closely budgeted", from work, to religion, to family and even exercise.

Top 7 Leadership Principles of The American Oil King

According to Chernow, this strict schedule could help Rockefeller cope with the inevitable stresses of running an entire oil empire.  Compared to those stresses, it is much easier to follow the rules and daily schedule.

2- Closely monitor the company's financial situation

According to Chernow, Rockefeller's leadership style was "foresight".  He only relies on numbers to see if the company is on the right track.

The oil magnate kept a handwritten diary of all the company's finances.  He detailed every expense down to the last decimal.  In this way, Rockefeller was able to create an 'objective metric' which compares performance and makes its own assessment, rather than relying on subjective reports of subordinates.

3- Assign tasks

To effectively run such a large corporation, Rockefeller certainly had to share the work with others.  His point was: "No one wants to work himself when he can tell someone else to do his replacement. As soon as possible, get someone you trust, train him, guide him how to help the company make money."

For Rockefeller, this meant removing oneself from the daily complexities to focus on broader decisions and strategies.  Of course, find someone you can trust with both competence and qualities.

4- Create unity

Chernow writes: One of Rockefeller's greatest talents was creating unity among his subordinates.  He always listens to people's opinions before expressing his own.  Instead of making decisions directly, Rockefeller preferred to frame his decisions in the form of suggestions and questions.

Top 7 Leadership Principles of The American Oil King

He also respects consensus.  "The billionaire will not take any initiative that the board members oppose” - Chernow writes.  All business decisions must meet the highest consensus.

5- Set up a support system

As a leader, Rockefeller was unavoidable to disputes or quarrels with other executives at Standard Oil.  But very few people have the behavior of hating and bashing the company.  They all share an almost a firm belief, a strong bond that makes them absolutely protective of the company.  Neither government investigators nor curious journalists could "penetrate the narrow wave of like-minded people" at Rockefeller's Standard Oil.

6- Respect employees

Rockefeller pointed out that Napoleon Bonaparte would not have succeeded without the regimes. Similarly, Rockefeller credits his success partly coming from his ability to motivate employees.

Chernow writes that the oil tycoon gives his associates the right to master their work, tactful and easy to deal with subordinates, not react angrily when criticized and remain polite even in the most difficult situations. Although he rarely praises employees, he freely gives employees independence and freedom to make decisions when he sees them as trustworthy.  Because of these characteristics, Standard Oil employees tended to respect Rockefeller and always sought to please him.

7- Active competition

Without competition, businesses easily fall into the hands of giants.  To avoid this, Rockefeller established a committee of experts from various fields to establish a standard of performance for all Standard Oil companies.

Accordingly, they encourage their subsidiaries to compete to achieve the ideal performance numbers for the business, to receive honorary awards while the leaders are still exchanging detailed information with each other.  The incentive to take the lead creates a positive competition and personal rewards.

Top 7 Leadership Principles of The American Oil King

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