wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Andrew Carnegie LeadershipAndrew Carnegie Leadership


Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)


American businessman and philanthropist, born in Dunfermline, Scotland.

Founder of the Carnegie Steel company, which later became U.S. Steel.

He (pictured right) gave away 90% his wealth, believing you should split your life into three equal parts: education, earning and giving.


Why was he a great leader?



1. Lifelong learning

Great early influences were his:Andrew Carnegie Leadership

  • father, William, a self- educated, political activist for poor people.
  • uncle, who taught him Scottish history and inspired his lifelong love of Shakespeare (pictured right).

As a young 16-year-old telegraph messenger boy in Pittsburgh, he delivered messages to a theatre and saw Shakespeare there for free!

He valued education greatly which is why he gave away so much of his fortune to public libraries and universities.


2. Self-improvement

He was a highly competitive, self-made man, who pushed himself to achieve success with single-minded devotion and determination.

His motto was “anything in life worth having is worth working for”.

He was against privilege by birth and strongly believed in advancement on merit, which is why he liked America so much.


3. Purpose and ambition

He wanted to not only be a great businessman, but also do something useful with his money.

“The man who dies rich dies disgraced”, he said.

So Carnegie:

  • gave away most of his $350 million fortune (worth nearly $1000 million today) to help people learn.
  • set up libraries and universities.


4. Character and charm

Character and doing right were very important to him.

“No amount of ability is of the slightest avail without honour”, he said.

He was a tough boss (see point 5), but not as ruthless as other bosses of his time.

He valued love and kindness most of all.

He was vane and boastful, but charming, funny and able to win people over to his point of view.


5. Tough

He drove his employees very hard. They worked long hours in boiling hot temperatures to keep the steel furnaces going.

They went on a strike in 1892 at his Homestead steel factory in Pittsburgh over a reduction in pay.Andrew Carnegie Leadership

His deputy, Henry Frick (pictured right), brought in non-union workers under the armed guard of 300 private detectives, provoking a bloody battle with the strikers.

Seven were killed and hundreds injured.

Carnegie won, but he lost his reputation as a kind employer.

He was a highly paternalistic boss, who thought he:

  • knew what was best for his employees.
  • wrongly believed that their ignorance was the main cause of any employee unrest.


6. Calm, relaxation and delegation

He was calm and unworried under pressure. This was helped by the fact that he spent at least half his time on his leisure, particularly music and theatre.

He was a great delegator (during the Homestead strike he was in Scotland), providing the inspiration, ideas and driving force, whilst his employees worked long hours.

“The secret of success lies not in doing your own work but in recognizing the right man to do it”, he said.


7. Customer satisfaction and innovation

He satisfied his customers by:


a) technology and mass production

He was the first person to mass produce steel at low cost.


b) quality

He believed the quality of his products was the most important factor in his success.


c) minimizing costs

(through measuring and tightly controlling them).


d) total control of manufacturing 

(which meant owning raw material supplies like iron ore i.e. vertical integration).


8. Optimism and vitality

He was always:

  • bursting with ideas and keen to discuss them.
  • totally self-confident in his ability to achieve anything he wanted to do.
  • positive and enthusiastic (laughing at his problems).

“A sunny disposition is worth more than fortune”, he said.


9. Opportunism

He believed that success starts with a commercially viable idea and putting it on the market as quickly as possible.

For example, he made his first fortune by backing the inventor of the sleeping car for trains.


10. Focus

He concentrated on steel production and withdrew from his other businesses like railways.

His policy was “to put all good eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket”.


Key quote on money

A man who dies rich dies disgraced.


Key quotes on work and leisure

Anything in life worth having is worth working for (his motto).

It is a great mistake to think that the man who works all the time wins the race


Key quotes on leadership and management

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.

The secret of success lies not in doing your own work but in recognizing the right man to do it.


Key quotes on success

There is little success where there is little laughter.


Key quote on careers

Think of yourself on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole, clear, glorious life lies before you. Achieve! Achieve!


Key quote on interviewing and selection

You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb.



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