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15 Quotes on Success From America's Top CEOs Take advantage of these inspirational words from Warren Buffett, Larry Page, Indra Nooyi, Jeff Bezos and more.

By Hayden Field

entrepreneur daily
Daniel Zuchnik | Getty Images

What's the recipe for success? Start with energy, initiative and intelligence, then add a dash of integrity, a pinch of honesty, two shakes of generosity and a heavy pour of the willingness to do more than your share.

Warren Buffett mentioned these qualities in a 2001 commencement speech at the University of Georgia, and it's safe to say his words remain true today. The Wall Street Journal recently released a list featuring his 2017 paycheck total along with that of every other CEO of an S&P 500 company. (The median pay was $12.1 million.)

"Making it big" certainly denotes big bucks, but it can also translate to significant impact. In that vein, we've rounded up quotes on success from CEOs at the top of the U.S. corporate ladder.

The highest-paid male CEOS:


Hock Tan, Broadcom
2017 salary: $103.2 million

"It's great to innovate -- I have full respect for that -- but it's also great to get a return on all the innovation and all the investment you make."

(Interview with The Wall Street Journal)

Les Moonves, CBS
2017 salary: $69.3 million

"In business, it is more important to get along with other people than to be smarter than them -- although that doesn't hurt either."

(2016 commencement speech at Bucknell University)

W. Nicholas Howley, TransDigm
2017 salary: $61 million

"We have to stay focused on both the details of value creation as well as careful management of our balance sheet."

(2016 Q4 earnings call)

Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner
2017 salary: $49 million

"EQ equals IQ … emotional intelligence, intellectual intelligence. Now, I don't meant they're the same. I just mean that they are probably equally important. … Most of the trainwrecks that I've seen … in the media business or generally -- in other industries -- have come about more from a fascinating lapse of EQ or social relations more so than they have come about due to a failure of analytic intelligence."

(Lecture at Yale University)

Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor
2017 salary: $47.9 million

"The smartest thing we ever did was, "Hey, we got this engine that can generate a qualified lead to an online travel agency, and we have people that actually want to write reviews and people that love reading reviews -- let's step on the gas at that point.' We certainly paid close attention to what search engines were doing, we learned how to buy traffic and got that whole sort of trial process going."

(Interview with TechCrunch)

The highest-paid female CEOs:


Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo
2017 salary: $31.1 million

"Help others rise. Greatness comes not from a position but from helping build the future. All of us in positions of power have an obligation to pull others up."

(Speech at NDTV)

Debra Cafaro, Ventas
2017 salary: $25.3 million

"Being a leader is really different … I keep trying to learn and get better every day and learn from my mistakes and listen to the people I care about."

(Keynote address at The University of Chicago)

Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin
2017 salary: $22.9 million

"Perform on today's job, but when an opportunity comes along, if it makes sense for you to take it, don't hold yourself back."

(Interview on CBS This Morning)

Mary Barra, General Motors
2017 salary: $22 million

"If you don't love your job … whether you don't think you're being fairly compensated or challenged or it's not a fulfilling job, you need to act on that."

(Interview at Stanford University)

Phebe Novakovic, General Dynamics
2017 salary: $21.5 million

"Results matter -- and results are, at the end of the day, all that really does matter."

(Interview at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C.)

The lowest-paid CEOs:


Larry Page, Alphabet
2017 salary: $1

"You are probably on the right track if you feel like a sidewalk worm during a rainstorm. That is about how we felt after we maxed out three credit cards buying hard disks off the back of a truck. That was actually the first hardware for Google."

(2009 commencement speech at The University of Michigan)

Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway
2017 salary: $100,000

"We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don't have the latter, the first two will kill you."

(2001 commencement speech at The University of Georgia)

Steven Kean, Kinder Morgan
2017 salary: $382,000

"You need to always have your eye on the ball. You need to have your eye on the ball financially, commercially and also operationally."

(Interview with The Motley Fool)

John Roberts, J.B. Hunt
2017 salary: $859,000

"We are required to be excellent to stay in the positions that we are in and the places we want to go. We can't do it without overachieving."

(Talk with Workmatters)

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com
2017 salary: $1.7 million

"What do you need to achieve high standards in a particular domain area? First, you have to be able to recognize what good looks like in that domain. Second, you must have realistic expectations for how hard it should be (how much work it will take) to achieve that result -- the scope."

(2018 letter to shareholders)

Hayden Field

Entrepreneur Staff

Associate Editor

Hayden Field is an associate editor at Entrepreneur. She covers technology, business and science. Her work has also appeared in Fortune Magazine, Mashable, Refinery29 and others. 

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