Education: BA, Wellesley College; MS, MIT Sloan School of Management

First Job: Worked at Bob’s Big Boy

What I'm Reading: Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl.

My Philosophy: Always aim to give more than you receive.

Headquarters: Deerfield, Illinois

Annual Revenues: $75 billion

Employees: 240,000


Sona Chawla 

President, eCommerce

award winner

My parents always told me that if I could dream of something, I could do it. Since then, whenever I have faced a personal or professional obstacle, I’ve gone back to my dreams. These dreams have given me a lens to view the world and discover its myriad opportunities.

Growing up in India, for example, my first dream was to attend college in the United States. That dream became a reality for me. As a young adult in college, I believed that I had moved to the land of boundless opportunity. I have never lost that feeling and am grateful for all the doors that have been opened for me. Each career transition has helped me grow, and setbacks have been as vital to growth as success. I have been fortunate to work with many great leaders and have drawn from their experiences and advice to develop my own philosophy about leadership. Here are some of my favorite lessons:

The role of a leader is to simplify. There are always forces at work, often outside our control, that can add layers of complexity to any structure, initiative, or decision. This can overwhelm people and drain them of their energy and creativity. Leaders need to enable their teams by cutting out the superfluous and focusing on the essentials, so that a clear path can emerge.

Find the best people and make them successful. We all know that the best leaders hire the best employees. What we often don’t consider is our own role in ensuring the success of those employees we hire. Talent alone does not guarantee success, and talented people need an environment where they can thrive. Whenever I’ve been successful, there has been at least one individual who looked out for me, helped me through obstacles, and gave me opportunities that pushed me beyond my own perceived boundaries.

Leadership is a privilege. Leadership is a service role and a privilege that needs to be earned every day. Be hungry for learning, not for titles. Grow as a leader by giving generously in terms of your time, passion, energy, insight, and resources.

These principles have served me well, keeping me grounded throughout my career. Helping others achieve their dreams, and watching as those I’ve helped go on to help others, is one of life’s most gratifying experiences.

What does it take to succeed and stay competitive in your position/field?

Staying competitive in the dynamic field of eCommerce takes perpetual curiosity, willingness to learn, courage to rebuild or reinvent your work, and a desire to evangelize and drive change.

Is there a role model who has had a profound impact on your career and/or life? What did he/she motivate you to do?
My parents have had a profound impact on my life. Both overcame adversity during their early years and found a way to provide our family with a better life. From my father, I learned how to recover, even when things go astray. From my mother, I learned how to be pragmatic and stay grounded. Both taught me resilience and the value of hard work.