Favorite Business Leaders Of The Class Of 2023

Singer. Actress. Activist. Mother.


Think 60 million albums sold and 14 #1 singles. 9 Grammies and collaborations with everyone from Jay-Z to Coldplay. Currently, Rihanna is estimated to be worth $1.4 billion dollars – and she is only 35 years old!

Talent and influence, fame and fortune – Rihanna has everything! So what did she do for an encore? Simple: She tried her hand at business, building a beauty line worth an estimated $2.8 billion dollars.


Rihanna’s story made an impression on Nubia Teklu, who earned a Business Administration degree from Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School before joining Google this summer. To Teklu, Rihanna personifies the promise that women can do it all, along with creating an inclusive brand whose products appeal to all women. Even more, Rihanna’s story showed Teklu that she too could someday make a big impact on business.

“An immigrant from Barbados, [Rihanna] used fashion and music throughout her life as creative outlets and built a career focused on empowering women along the way. As someone who comes from an immigrant family, her story really resonates with me – it shows me that anything is possible when you have a passion for it and that the American dream is achievable for all of us.”

Jane Fraser Citigroup CEO

Jane Fraser, Citigroup: “[She] is my personal inspiration, both for her professional endeavors and personal philosophy. As a woman entering the finance field, how could I not be in awe of Jane Fraser, the first woman CEO of any major bank?  Jane Fraser is a dynamic leader who’s currently transforming Citigroup. She became CEO in 2021, when the bank had been underperforming peers and facing extremely difficult macroeconomic conditions. Fraser immediately announced a massive overhaul strategy. At the forefront of her strategy is a cultural transformation, with an emphasis on empathy both for clients and people and an ESG agenda. I think that large financial institutions can, and need to, play an intentional role in improving society and building sustainable environmental and social practices. On a personal note, after watching several interviews and attending a speaker series where Fraser was featured, I am impressed by how she openly discusses trying to strike a work-life balance as a woman who works in finance and being a mother.”
Abigail Sneddon, Binghamton University

Ask any business major and they’ll tell you about a business leader who inspired them. They’ll rattle off compelling stories of perseverance, how they built service-driven cultures and blazed paths for tomorrow’s leaders. As part of Poets&Quants’ nomination process for the Best & Brightest Business Majors, we asked 2023 grads to share the business leaders they admired most (and why). From Walt Disney to Whitney Wolfe Herd, here are the executives who’ve set the bar for the Class of 2023 to reach.

Lee Chow, TBWA Worldwide: “Lee Clow is the business leader I admire the most. I learned about Lee Clow in my Applied Advertising class, and his vision inspired me to be greater. Clow is responsible for introducing storytelling to advertising agencies, where his well-known work includes creating Apple’s “Think Different” campaign. His story and life advice have inspired me to be a better version of myself. For example, Clow says that feeling like you are failing is a great motivator. As a result, you should surround yourself with people who will help inspire you to reach greater heights. This quote resonates with me because it made me realize that you must surround yourself with positive people who will help you achieve more extraordinary things.”
Carlos Armando Alvarez-Macias, University of Arizona (Eller)

Walt Disney, Walt Disney Company: “It’s not because I enjoy frequent trips to Disney World (although that does play a small part). Walt Disney was ahead of his time in creating an extraordinary amusement park that continues to bring families together worldwide. Walt displayed many characteristics of a great leader: perseverance, passion, teamwork, charisma, and effective communication. The greatest lesson we can take away from his successful career is to never give up on your dreams, no matter the challenges you may face. Disney had to deal with companies stealing his idea, downsizing his staff by half due to strikes, pausing animation work for war, and switching paths to create a revolutionary theme park. Disney’s challenges motivated him to persevere and think creatively to achieve his goals and aspirations.”
Katie Sharp, Florida Southern College

Stephen A. Schwarzman, The Blackstone Group CEO

Stephen A. Schwarzman, The Blackstone Group: “I have been fascinated with Mr. Schwarzman’s journey ever since he hosted an event at Villanova in the Fall of 2020. I remember how he emphasized the value of continuous learning and that graduation should be seen as the start to our lives, not a finish line. After hearing him speak in Blackstone’s weekly Monday Morning Meetings, it is clear to me how passionate Mr. Schwarzman is about the success of the business and how much he cares about fostering a positive and collaborative environment. His story of commitment and resiliency, as told through his autobiography, What it Takes, has inspired me to stay confident and dedicated in the face of adversity.”
Megan C. Kempf, Villanova University

Seema Hingorani, Girls Who Invest: “Seema’s mission to increase the number of women in asset management resonated with me as a young woman of color entering the corporate world. Her remarkable career journey within finance is inspiring, but even more so I have always been awe-struck by her commitment to giving back and leveraging her connections for good. Through the generosity of her program, I was able to learn important finance fundamentals from esteemed professors and intern at a prestigious private equity firm. Seema has proven to me that power and kindness are not mutually exclusive, and I aspire to give back similarly in the future.”
Archi Das, Boston Universityi (Questrom)

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

Satya Nadella, Microsoft: “He is an extremely inspiring leader for many reasons. For one, I admire his sense for disruptive innovation. All the company’s investments lie in different industries and serve different purposes, but, somehow all make perfect sense within the Microsoft fold. Second, Nadella is known for his transformation of the company from a technical mindset to a growth one. This growth mindset, and how he has spread it throughout the company, is extremely admirable as well.”
Tobey Bill, Lehigh University

Gary Vaynerchuk, VaynerX: “[He] is more commonly known as Gary Vee. I remember when I first told my mom that I wanted to study business in college. She essentially said, “Businessmen are evil,” and I should do something that helps people, like being a doctor or lawyer. However, I knew that wouldn’t be a problem for me. Helping people was the very reason I wanted to pursue business in the first place. Seeing business leaders like Gary Vee while growing up inspired my interest in business. Just like me, he was an immigrant that came from a less fortunate background. Not only did he emphasize the importance of hard work in achieving your dreams, but he also unapologetically demonstrates being honest and genuine, doing the right thing, staying true to your values, and being empathetic and caring about people. These are all things that I aspire to be in business.”
Derek Nhieu, Wharton School

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