John D Rockefeller 
Leadership Case Study

John D Rockefeller Leadership Case Study is a part of Leadership Stories, a series of biographies of great leaders in history that have impacted the world in a huge way.

John D Rockefeller 
Who was He?

John D Rockefeller is an American Oil Magnate and the first billionaire in the history of the world. In today’s dollars, Rockefeller is still considered the richest man in modern history.

He was also one of the first few philanthropists in the world, giving back a huge portion of his wealth to the community.

A Quick History

John D Rockefeller was born second of six children in Richford, New York.

From a very young age, he was taught by his father to be shrewd and cunning in every deal. His mother was a fervent Baptist and taught him to be a good Christian.

As he grew up, he developed a love for music, which he considered as a career as some point, and later on found that he loved bookkeeping.

At age 20, he started a business with a partner which started with wholesale foodstuff and eventually started an oil refinery. It was the perfect timing as the need for crude oil grew during that period as whale oil began to become more scarce and expensive.

It was the beginning of his journey into becoming the world’s richest man.

Through many deals made by him, Standard Oil company began acquiring many of his competitors to become the largest oil supplier in the US. He convinced many of his competitors that it was unprofitable to challenge him.

It was because of his many acquisition and takeover deals that led him into trouble with the authorities. He had to face many lawsuits as many argued that his practices were anti-trust and monopolistic.

During all these, he began thinking of retirement and he spent a lot of his time giving back to society, funding the University of Chicago as well as medical research, which led to cures for yellow fever and hookworm.

Eventually, Standard Oil company would be broken down into 34 companies, many of which you still see today like ExxonMobil, BP, Chervon and more.

These companies’ value would raise fivefold, leaving John D Rockefeller with a personal wealth of US$900 million and the title of history’s richest man.

John D Rockefeller
Leadership Lessons

1. Shrewdness
John D Rockefeller displayed amazing shrewdness in his business dealings. He almost always managed to come out a winner in the deals he makes.

We have to learn to be wise in handling other people as well. While it is important for us to have character, but it is also imperative that we are shrewd enough in dealing with people. Be wise as serpents, Jesus says.

While the best thing within an organization is mutual trust, you must remember that outside your organization, not everyone is thinking of your good. Learn to be wise and discerning in the people you are dealing with.

2. Do not focus on money
Although he was the richest man in history, John D Rockefeller believed that you cannot focus on making money to be rich. He believes deeply in the building of character and reputation as a man.

This is true for you as a leader. If you want to chase the money, you’ll realize that money runs away from you, and more than that, people run away from you too. But once you focus on building a solid character and reputation, money begins to follow you wherever you go.

3. Give back to society
John D Rockefeller was a giver. From the first few dollars he made, he began giving 10% to the church he attended. Throughout his life, he used his money for medical research and educational institutions in the US and other parts of the world.

I believe that the source of his wealth was in his immense capacity to give from the very start.

We have to learn to adopt the same attitude of giving as well. Our money is the expression of our heart attitudes, and a leader must take the attitude of the giver, not the taker.

Related Books and Literature
on John D Rockefeller Leadership

Best Quotes from John D Rockefeller Leadership

Don't blame the marketing department. The buck stops with the chief executive.

Every right implies a responsibility; Every opportunity, an obligation, Every possession, a duty.

I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people's efforts than 100% of my own efforts.

If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.

If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it.

Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.

I believe that thrift is essential to well-ordered living.

Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.

Do you know the only thing that gives me pleasure? It's to see my dividends coming in.

The only question with wealth is, what do you do with it?

The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets

Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.

I can think of nothing less pleasurable than a life devoted to pleasure.


I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.

I have ways of making money that you know nothing of.

Good management consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people.

I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity.

I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.

A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.

I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.

I know of nothing more despicable and pathetic than a man who devotes all the hours of the waking day to the making of money for money's sake.

It is wrong to assume that men of immense wealth are always happy.

Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.

Singleness of purpose is one of the chief essentials for success in life, no matter what may be one's aim.

The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.

The most important thing for a young man is to establish a credit... a reputation, character.

Video On John D Rockefeller Leadership

Other Links

Wikipedia: A short account of John D Rockefeller’s life

Other Business Leaders

» Jamie Dimon
Jamie Dimon is the current CEO and chairman of JP Morgan Chase & Co, the second largest bank in the United States by assets.

» Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is the Chairman and CEO of Apple Computers Inc. and arguably one of the world’s most successful businessmen today.

» Ray Kroc
Ray Kroc is the man behind the multimillion dollar fast food empire, MacDonald’s. In his life, he has built the fast food chain from a simple hamburger restaurant to a multi-billion dollar franchise that has reached almost every part of the world today.

» Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie was the father of modern steel and was one of America’s richest men. He started the Carnegie Steel Company, which later merged with Steel Company to become U.S. Steel.

» Walt Disney
Walt Disney is the famous founder of Mickey Mouse, the loveable cartoon character that has permeated almost every country and culture in the world. He is the co-founder of Walt Disney Productions and one of the most influential motion picture producers in the world.

» Henry Ford
Henry Ford is the founder of the Ford Motor Company and also the inventor of the modern day assembly line method of production for his Model T cars. He is also an inventor who has been credited with over 100 patents. During his time, he was one of the richest people in the world.

» Sam Walton
Sam Walton is the founder of Walmart, the international discounting retail giant. He is a model business leader who has changed the way big business is done.

» Donald Trump
Donald Trump is an American business magnate and television personality. He is the Chairman of the Trump Organization, a US-based real-estate developer. To date, Donald Trump has accumulated wealth of up to US$2.7 billion, primarily through his real estate investments.

» John D Rockefeller
John D Rockefeller is an American Oil Magnate and the first billionaire in the history of the world. In today’s dollars, Rockefeller is still considered the richest man in modern history. He was also one of the first few philanthropists in the world, giving back a huge portion of his wealth to the community.

» Warren Buffet
Warren Buffet is one of the world’s richest men, with assets totally up to US$50 billion in 2011. His main source of wealth comes from his company Berkshire Hathaway, a conglomerate holding company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, United States. His philosophy of value investing and prudence and influenced many investors worldwide.

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