Five business leaders you must follow in 2024 for thought leadership and content inspiration

If you're unsure what defines a good business leader on LinkedIn or want to join me in discovering the strategy behind their content plan, then read on.

Many factors contribute to being a great business leader, including the ability to inspire others, clear communication, charisma, and having a compelling vision that people believe in. With today's obsession of content and information, a compelling LinkedIn profile has definitely earned its spot on that list. Here are five top business leaders and why their accounts/profiles merit your follow. It's important to note that these selections are based on their posted content, with no consideration for bios, cover photos, or industries. This is by no means a deep dive or a full audit of their LinkedIn, but rather a quick synopsis highlighting why I consider their approach worthy of a follow or exploration.

Ed Bastian - CEO Delta Airlines

Out of the five on this list, Ed's account is by far the most polished. If I had to choose an account to showcase to any CEO without knowing anything about them, their industry, or their character, I'd pick this one—it's the gold standard. Clearly, there's a team behind this, tactfully conceptualising, creating, and managing Ed's LinkedIn communications, and it works seamlessly. Every bit of content, whether personal, business-related, customer-centric, or reactive, is quite frankly excellent.

Where I'd draw inspiration from Ed's account is not just at the quality level of content and photography, but really in the copy length for each post. It strikes that perfect balance between insight and action, done succinctly and simply—a real art, best demonstrated in this post. Kudos to the GH05T writer behind this! ;) P.S. It's not us, haha.

Indra Nooyi - Former CEO of PepsiCo

Indra secures a spot on this list for arguably the most crucial reason—this account is 100% managed by her. Unless I'm mistaken, then someone really doesn't know what they're doing because there are numerous posts without proper tags, links scattered throughout the copy at the start, middle, and end of posts, and overall, the content strategy and imagery are a bit chaotic. However, what this account lacks in LinkedIn optimization, it compensates for with the authentic voice and commentary provided by Indra on her current life post-Pepsi, acting on the boards of many companies and serving as an inspiration to many of us in business.

The content she shares is heartfelt, raw, and honest. You can tell she wants to share her knowledge and passions with as many people as possible. Not every account or post needs to be perfect; social media doesn't always have to follow the most optimised, formulaic, edited-to-death approach. It's refreshing to see, in a world where everyone is obsessed with nailing the posting strategy, that there are still some leaders with this level of profile who couldn't care less. At the end of the day, it's the message that matters, not whether it's been polished by a million communications professionals.

Doug McMillion - CEO Walmart

Doug uses what I call the P.E.D.A.L model - the Personal, Effective, Disciplined Approach to LinkedIn. You can quickly put your foot down to make decisions without the need for lengthy calls to figure out positioning, optimisation, and all those boring, pointless conversations that can arise when managing business leaders. This model gets things done! You might not end up with the fanciest or most polished profile, but we know that social media rewards those who are disciplined with post frequency and personal content over those who show up occasionally with a good polished video.

I'm a big fan of this approach, and for the CEO of Walmart, it's perfect. He uses this model to demonstrate a no-frills approach to what he's doing and, ultimately, how he values what his staff are doing. His appreciation for the entire Walmart team is at the absolute centre of his communication approach. Whether it's store visits, mentions of holidays, important moments in the calendar, or even personal recognition for long-serving team members, Doug ensures that everyone feels acknowledged.

What's truly incredible about Doug is his quarterly earning videos. You might assume these are focused on speaking to shareholders and Wall Street, right? Wrong. He talks directly to the employees of Walmart, explaining the impact of their jobs and how they contribute to the growth and improvement of Walmart as a company quarter by quarter. This is very unique for a CEO of this size to take this approach, but personally, I love it and want to see more CEOs taking a leaf out of Doug's book, focusing less on shareholder communication and more on building employee relationships. It's inspiring, to say the least!

Bozoma Saint John - CMO Netflix

The most socially savvy on this list, as expected with the marketing roles she's held! Bozoma clearly manages her own account and is highly active in the comments. Not many, if any, business leaders tend to engage actively in the comments on their LinkedIn. She makes it to the list for what I classify as the "get others to make your content and then use it" trick. Bozoma frequently appears on podcasts, summits, TV news, and magazines, strategically utilising all that content as her LinkedIn strategy. It's a simple and clever approach if you're already attracting that level of attention, and it's the most effective way to build a personal brand. This method not only amplifies your message but also establishes credibility through third-party validation.

Satya Nadella - Chairman and CEO of  Microsoft

Satya doesn't really have a choice but to be active on LinkedIn, considering that his business owns the platform. A well-defined strategy is evident, and it's apparent there is a team of content and communications professionals helping to shape his personal brand. Overall, his content strategy mainly focuses on elevating key developments, innovations, and news related to Microsoft. Most of this content is either shared from other sources or Microsoft press and campaign assets.

However, two standout reasons showcase why his account serves as a great example of how CEOs should utilise LinkedIn. Firstly, Satya doesn't shy away from addressing public issues where people expect a response from a CEO. During the OpenAI Sam Altman leadership storm, Satya posted two very personal updates (here&here), consisting of text only, with no bullshit or trying to shoehorn in content, other links or excuses. They are clear, personable, positive, and honest, conveying a sense that they come directly from him rather than the team running the day-to-day content operations.

Secondly, though I'd love to see him do this way more and tone down the Microsoft stuff, he's really good at showing his personality and passion for his role. An example of this is evident in this post. A straightforward picture with a caption that highlights his passion for sports and features a Microsoft product. Check out the likes on this post compared to the one before! However, it's videos like this where his charisma and powerful communication style truly shine.

I hope I've shown you five very different approaches to LinkedIn and not from the most obvious celebrity leaders like Branson or Gates, etc. What connects them is how down-to-earth they come across in their communication along with a clear passion and interest in their personal brand. After diving into this research, I felt like I got to know each of them a lot better and would quite like to be friends with all of them—haha, can't say that's always the case after stalking every leader! From this, you can draw some inspiration for what might work for you or for those you manage on LinkedIn. Ultimately, the questions to ask yourself are: What is my content approach, and what do I want the results of that content to achieve?


*If you're reading this and happen to be a business leader of a global company, or part of a comms team for a business leader and would like an audit on your LinkedIn account or social media channels, the first three people to respond to this article will receive a complimentary audit from GH05T's data and insight team. Plus, you get a 30-minute meeting with me to go over the audit and chat about some content suggestions and approaches.

Written by Adam Biddle

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