So crushing: CEOs reveal their most admired entrepreneurs

Donna Abood, principal and managing director, Avison Young

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I admire Michelle Obama because of her ability to juggle family and professional roles with poise and great strength. She inspires me on a daily basis to serve the community and my clients with conviction and optimism.

Adelee Cabrera, regional director, Starr Catering Group

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There are so many and it changes as their accomplishments change but they are always women. Having just come off of our Leadership Luncheon featuring Beth Kaplan, former President of Rent the Runway and now Strategic Adviser, Board Member and investor, it’s Beth. It’s not just her experience and incredible credentials, but her willingness to share her struggles and give advice for working women both professionally and personally.

Laurie Kaye Davis, executive director, South Florida, The Commonwealth Institute South Florida

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My father. He was a trailblazer in business and was successful in several industries, because he had a unique ability to earn the respect of those with whom he worked and incentivize them to give their best each day.

Albert E. Dotson Jr., partner, Bilzin Sumberg

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In our local market, I admire Wayne Huizenga for his creative business prowess and giving heart. He has created new businesses, including three Fortune 1000 companies (Waste Management, Blockbuster Entertainment and AutoNation); he has enhanced the sports landscape through his acquisition of the Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins and Panthers hockey team; he also has given back to the community through a variety of philanthropic programs in such needed areas as education and social services.

Aurelio M. Fernandez III, president and CEO, Memorial Healthcare System

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I most admire the late Leonard Miller, founder and Chairman of Lennar Corp. He was the founder of the Council for Educational Change and believed that if every child can get a quality education, every child can succeed. He was an excellent mentor, coach and role model who helped me develop leadership skills.

Elaine Liftin, president and executive director, Council for Educational Change

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The person I most admire and who has shaped who I am today is my father, Alfredo. He is charismatic, street smart, and savvy. He has passed down many valuable lessons, both in my business and personal life, demonstrating strong morals, values, and he truly honors family. We’ve worked together for 25 years, and I am still always learning from him. My father and grandfather built the foundation for Lionstone Development, and we are actually celebrating our company’s 50th anniversary now. The company’s success and longevity can be attributed to them as they have taught me that patience and perseverance are key to growth, and I hope to make the company into something even more significant and innovative for my children so they can grow it to the next level. My family looks forward to turning 50 years into 100 years!

Diego Lowenstein, CEO, Lionstone Development

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Oprah. She’s authentically her and she got rich doing it. And she’s created vehicles (TV, events, books, shows) that empower people to be more, do more, be happier. She got rich by making people love themselves more. That is amazing.

Suzan McDowell, president and CEO, Circle of One Marketing

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Steve Jobs. I recently read his biography by Walter Isaacson and, while Jobs was certainly a flawed individual, he revolutionized several industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computers, and digital publishing. Many would say that the ultimate goal of a business is to achieve profits. Jobs showed that your initial objective can be instead to address a need or solve a problem. If you do this in an innovative fashion, the profits will then come as a by-product of the process. The iPod started not as a new product created to make the next quarter’s numbers, but as the idea that a person can hold a thousand songs in their pocket. I think the best business leaders often think in these terms.

Jay Pelham, president, TotalBank

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I admire Cathy Hughes, founder of Radio One. Ms. Hughes started a business from the ground up in spite of the numerous obstacles she faced as a single mother. Now she has an empire built on her convictions and values, which provides opportunity and access to hundreds of underrepresented people in the media industry.

Larry Rice, president, Johnson & Wales University North Miami Campus

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I most admire Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric. He created a culture in GE that was extremely well respected by all employees, and was involved in every new hire training class within the company. He created an environment that encouraged commitment rather than compliance, based around the mantra that everyone has a brain so let them use it. Jack was so effective that still to this day he is considered one of top business leaders in the U.S.

Eddie Rodriguez, CEO, JAE Restaurant Group

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On the top of the list it would have to be Cesar Alvarez, senior chairman of Greenberg Traurig. As a young refugee kid in America, he and his brothers attended Boys & Girls Clubs while his parents worked to get ahead. He embodies the American dream: He assimilated, studied hard, went to college, obtained his law degree and became one of the most successful attorneys in Miami.

Alex Rodriguez-Roig, president, Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade

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The legacy of the Jenkins family and its founding and leadership of Publix Super Markets is extraordinary. The notion of creating an employee-owned company in the 1930’s, which now ranks as one of America’s largest private companies, is beyond forward-thinking. The outsized performance by Publix in the Southeast can be directly attributed to this employee culture of ownership. It’s a great example of success born from the alignment of ownership, responsibility and authority.

Vincent Signorello, president and CEO, Florida East Coast Industries

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Warren Buffett, a billionaire who gives to many charitable organizations in a significant way, pays his taxes and serves on White House committees to work toward the betterment of our country. Instead of just living a lavish life, he chooses to engage and contribute to improving society.

John Tanzella, president and CEO, International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association

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One person I admire is Elon Musk, the South African-born, Canadian-American business man and inventor of the Tesla car. He developed a demand for multiple products that focus on the betterment of humanity. He has taken great risks based on his own moral compass to leave the world better for other generations. I am proud to admire a non-American born person who takes pride in this country as much as he does.

Frank Vilar, president, OHL Arellano

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Constance Collins at Lotus House. She left a successful career in real estate in order to give back. What she is creating with Lotus House is nothing short of amazing — and by applying her business acumen to helping homeless women and children, she is inspiring others to get involved, myself included.