Some 14% of the INC. 100 CEOs point to a family member as a personal hero who has inspired their career, usually a father or a grandfather. Richard Green of Data Switch Corp. found his role model in a great-uncle who left school at age nine, started his own sponge business in New York City, and ended up a multimillionaire. Greene still drives the car his great-uncle gave him 15 years ago and keeps it "as a symbol."
Frank Reed Sr. of Alaska Diversified Resources Inc. calls his wife his greatest source of inspiration. "She has influenced my career all the way along," Reed says proudly. "She's the one who has given me the most moral support."
Two of the CEOs said they saw their hero's face each morning -- looking into the mirror when shaving. Twenty others said they had no heroes at all. Two mentioned Jesus Christ, "because he's a model for behavior whose teachings extend beyond business into every part of my life." Others pointed to leaders in America's largest corporations, including LTV Corp. founder Jimmy Ling, Chrysler Corp. chairman Lee lacocca, Hewlett-Packard Co. executive vice-president Paul Ely, and Litton Industries Inc. founder Charles "Tex" Thornton.
John F. Kennedy was named "for his vision and courage"; Oklahoma humorist Will Rogers, "because he was always a gentleman"; and Generals George Patton, Stonewall Jackson, and Erwin Rommel, "because they were able to get maximum effect with minimum resources." Other names on the list included Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eugene Debs, and Captain Marvel.