14 executives share the best advice their dads gave them

Leaders' support systems at work are comprised of other professionals who inspire, challenge and motivate them. An entirely different support system — family — is equally valuable.

Here is a collection of the best advice successful business leaders were told by their fathers, according to Business Insider.

1. Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard: Be nice.
"I'll never forget my father telling me that I had been mean to someone. He said, 'There is no point in being mean to anyone at any time. You never know who you're going to meet later in life. And by the way, you don't change anything by being mean. Usually you don't get anywhere.'" <3

2. T. Boone Pickens, founder and chairman of BP Capital Management: Have a plan.
"A fool with a plan can outsmart a genius with no plan any day," Mr. Pickens' father told him during his freshman year at college. "And your mother and I think we have a fool with no plan. We think you're wasting your time here in Stillwater. You're not getting anywhere." Mr. Pickens wrote on LinkedIn that his father was right. But within a month of that visit, Mr. Pickens decided on a new track and changed his major. "I got a plan, and I've had one ever since."

3. Bill Gates, co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft: Invest in things, even if you're not good at them.
In a conversation with Fortune magazine, Mr. Gates recalled that both his parents encouraged him to "go out for a lot of different sports like swimming, football, soccer. At the time I thought it was kind of pointless, but it ended up really exposing me to leadership opportunities and showing me that I wasn't good at a lot of things, instead of sticking to things that I was comfortable with." 

4. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group: Talk less, listen more.
"When I grew up our house was always a hive of activity, with Mum dreaming up new entrepreneurial schemes left, right and center, and me and my sisters running wild," Mr. Branson wrote in a LinkedIn post. He described his father as a fixture of calm and support amidst the chaos. "He wasn't quiet, but he was not often as talkative as the rest of us. It made for a wonderful balance, and we always knew we could rely on him no matter what. Within this discreet support lay one of his best and most simple pieces of advice for me: Listen more than you talk," Mr. Branson wrote. "Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak."

5. Steve Jobs, founder and former CEO of Apple: Commit to a job well done.
"Paul Jobs was a salt-of-the-earth guy who was a great mechanic. And he taught his son Steve how to make great things," Steve Jobs' biographer, Walter Isaacson, told CBS News. "Once they were building a fence. And he said, 'You got to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good looking as the front of the fence. Even though nobody will see it, you will know, and that will show that you're dedicated to making something perfect.'"

6. Martha Stewart, founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia: Nothing is impossible.
"[My father] told me that with my personal characteristics, I could, if I set my mind to it, do anything I chose," she wrote in a post on LinkedIn. "This advice instilled in me a great sense of confidence, and despite the fact that sometimes I was a little nervous, I stepped out and did what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it."

7. Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic advisor at Allianz: Consider different points of view.
Growing up in Paris, Mr. El-Erian's father, then Egypt's ambassador to France, taught him the importance of learning all sides of a situation.

"Each day we used to get at least four daily newspapers, from Le Figaro on the right side of the political spectrum to L'Humanité, which was the newspaper of the Communist Party," Mr. El-Erian told Fortune

"I remember asking my father, 'Why do we need four newspapers?' He said to me, 'Unless you read different points of view, your mind will eventually close, and you'll become a prisoner to a certain point of view that you'll never question.'"

8. Walt Bettinger, president and CEO of Charles Schwab: You can't buy your reputation.
"'Most things in the world can be bought or sold, but not a reputation.' With these few words of great wisdom, my father instilled in me a framework for behavior, interactions with others and decision making that shapes my actions every day," he told Fortune.  

9. Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group and one of the Sharks on ABC's Shark Tank: Don't always follow commands.
"[My father] would quit his job when the boss told him to do something," Ms. Corcoran said in Inc. Magazine. "It was an M.O. If he came home before 5:30 we knew he had been fired. And we all sat at the table early for dinner promptly at 6, because my mother was like a lieutenant. And he would say, 'Guess what, kids?' And we'd all shout together, 'You were fired?!' And that was the most exciting meal of the month. My father taught us a great heaping of insubordination and I think that's why [his children] didn't want to grow up working for anybody."

10. Indra Nooyi, president and CEO of PepsiCo: Give others the benefit of the doubt.
"Whatever anybody says or does," Ms. Nooyi's father told her, "assume positive intent."

Ms. Nooyi explained to Fortune how this advice changed her life. "You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you're angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed."

Instead of getting defensive, you'll be able to really listen to other people — and moreover, other people will be able to really listen to you. "When you assume positive intent, I think often what happens is the other person says, 'Hey, wait a minute, maybe I'm wrong in reacting the way I do because this person is really making an effort.'"

11. Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, and co-owner of Landmark Theaters and Magnolia Pictures, chairman of the HDTV cable Network AXS TV and a Shark on ABC's Shark Tank: Have fun.
"My dad is 87. He's going strong, he's a machine," he said at South by Southwest in 2014. "My dad says it over and over, 'Today's the youngest you're ever going to be. You've got to live like it. You've got to live young every day.' And that's what I try to do."

12. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx: Embrace failure.
"My dad used to ask my brother and me at the dinner table what we had failed at that week," Ms. Blakely said at a 2015 Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship event in New York City. "I can remember coming home from school and saying, 'Dad, I tried out for this and I was horrible!' and he would high-five me and say, 'Way to go!' If I didn't have something that I had failed at, he actually would be disappointed. He gave me the gift of retraining my thinking about failure. Failure for me became about not trying, instead of the outcome."

13. Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express: You can only control your own performance.
"If you're going to focus on anything, focus on what you can control," Mr. Chenault said to the audience at the McComb School of Business at the University of Texas-Austin, recalling his father's advice. "And the only thing you can control is your performance. What it says to a person is you can really make a difference. You can really make a difference off your performance."

14. Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft and current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers: Bar none.
"My dad said, 'If you're going do a job, do a job. And if you're not going to do a job, don't do a job. And that is the key of everything," Mr. Ballmer said during an interview at Oxford's business school.

"If you're going to do something, then do it heart, body and soul."

More articles on leadership and management:
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The 8 biggest healthcare issues in 2015 so far

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