Can You Guess What These 7 Successful CEOs Have in Common?

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A lot has been written about the importance of sleep. Getting an adequate amount of sleep has been tied to increased levels of earnings, better cognitive function, and numerous health benefits. All told, it’s pretty obvious that we all need to get plenty of time in the sack to make sure we can get through the day, and to keep productivity and creativity flowing at optimum levels.

But there are those who buck that trend – who, despite working long hours and shouldering immense responsibilities, shirk sleep in favor of more waking hours getting things done. These people include many of our business and political leaders, and even First Lady Michelle Obama.

America’s CEOs are a very select breed, many of whom have worked incredibly hard through corporate hierarchies to reach the zenith of their profession. It took an insane amount of hours, a few lucky breaks, and – you guessed it – probably more than a few all-nighters.

These individuals, even having achieved so much already, still maintain many of their old habits today. One of those habits is to sleep little, or at least get up at what most of us would deem to be a completely unacceptable hour. That’s what the following business leaders have in common.

It’s two things, actually: they’re awake by 5 a.m., and working (or at work) by 6 a.m.

This presents a lot to look at and study in terms of strategy and leadership, but it’s hard to deny that the habit of getting up very early has helped these individuals get ahead. Here are seven highly successful CEOs who are all awake by 5 a.m., and hitting the grind before you’ve even exited your final REM cycle.

1. Tim Cook

Tim Cook during the WWDC keynote in June 2015


Apple’s chief executive famously gets out of his likely platinum-plated California King at an absurd hour: 3:45 a.m. That’s right, while you’re still trying to summon an Uber to get yourself back home from the bar at your local Denny’s, Cook is getting showered, shaved, and ready to release the newest iteration of the iPhone, iPad, iWatch, etc.

Getting up so early does entitle you to tweet out absurd things like this:


2. Sergio Marchionne


Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, is another very early riser. He has said that he wakes up at 3:30 a.m., earlier than even Tim Cook, but it’s for a good reason. Marchionne’s automotive empire spans two continents, and he needs to be awake to deal with both of them. By getting up at 3:30 a.m., he’s able to deal with the European side of his business, and then conquer North America/everything else later in the day.

3. Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz, president and chief executive officer of Starbucks delivers his speech at the Starbucks Partner Family Forum in Beijing on April 18, 2012. (Photo by Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images

Running a worldwide coffee empire requires a lot of energy. Luckily for Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, there’s plenty of caffeine on hand. Schultz runs Starbucks from its Seattle headquarters, and is able to beat the traffic and drizzle by getting to work at around 6 a.m. – after he’s gotten a workout in. That means he’s out of bed by 4:30 a.m.

4. Mary Barra


Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

General Motors CEO Mary Barra walked into a disaster when she took the reins of the company in January of 2014, right before numerous recalls for faulty ignition switches put a huge dent in GM’s business and reputation. But she stuck through it, and her perseverance likely has to do with the fact that she’s awake and in the office by 6 a.m., even before she became CEO.

5. Bob Iger

Jesse Grant/Getty Images

Jesse Grant/Getty Images

With a huge empire that includes the Marvel universe, Star Wars, and numerous other properties, an early wake-up time is required. That’s why Disney CEO Bob Iger is up and at ‘em at 4:30 a.m. – or at least that’s what he told The New York Times.

Here’s the excerpt:

“I get up very early and I get to work early. I get up at 4:30 every morning. I like the quiet time. It’s a time I can recharge my batteries a bit. I exercise and I clear my head and I catch up on the world. I read papers. I look at e-mail. I surf the Web. I watch a little TV, all at the same time. I call it my quiet time but I’m already multitasking. I love listening to music, so I’ll do that in the morning, too, when I’m exercising and watching the news.”

6. Tim Armstrong

Mike Windle/Getty Images

Mike Windle/Getty Images

No, not the guy from Rancid and Operation Ivy – he looks like he sleeps in.

Tim Armstrong presides over the AOL empire, and is reportedly awake and on his feet by 5 a.m. As he told The Guardian, “I am not a big sleeper and never have been. Life is too exciting to sleep. Arianna Huffington is preaching sleep to me all the time, but I will need a DNA transplant to adhere to her advice. She is right, but I just can’t do it.”

7. Indra Nooyi


Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Nooyi may not be a household name like Tim Cook or Howard Schultz, but as the chief executive of PepsiCo, she has a ton of responsibility to make sure her beverage dominion keeps step with competitors. As a result, Nooyi is up by 4 every morning, and generally stays up pretty late. You could say she’s one of the lucky few who can get an awful lot done on very little sleep.

“They say sleep is a gift that God gives you,” she told Fortune. “That’s one gift I was never given.”

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