Andrew Carnegie is known as the father of modern steel and was one of America’s richest men. He founded the Carnegie Steel Company, which later became the U.S. Steel Corporation.
He retired at the age of 66 and spent much of his vast fortune creating philanthropic organizations dedicated to the causes such as world peace and education.
A Short Biography
Andrew Carnegie was born in 1835 in Scotland to a poor family. When Scotland faced large-scale famine in 1848, his father, William Carnegie, decided to move the family to the United States in search of a better life.
At age 13, Carnegie started his first job which was changing spools of thread in a cotton mill. Two years later, he worked in the Ohio Telegraph Company as a telegraph messenger boy.
He was an extremely hard worker, and as a result rose to prominence very quickly. At the young age of 18, he became the superintendent of the Pittsburgh division of the telegraph company.
As he matured, he made several good investments in railroad-related industries, creating the foundation for his later wealth. Carnegie revolutionized the way steel was made by controlling the manufacturing process from start to finish. His innovations in the manufacturing process helped him secure his fortune. At one point, he controlled the largest iron and steel operations in the United States. At age 66, he retired from the steel industry, with an estimated fortune of $225 million (more than $6 billion in today’s dollars).
Carnegie dedicated his later life to philanthropic work, giving attention to issues like world peace and education. He established several foundations and libraries in his lifetime. He also articulated his beliefs in these social causes in several books such as Wealth and Triumphant Democracy.
Carnegie passed away at age 83. At the time of his death, he had contributed over $350 million to philanthropic works, the largest amount of any individual in that period.
Awards and Honours
Andrew Carnegie had a lot of institutions, awards, streets named after him:
- Carnegie, Oklahoma and Carnegie, Pennsylvania was named after him.
- The Carnegie Medal for Best Children’s Literature was named after him.
- Carnegie Hall in New York was named after him.
Besides that, he had received many other awards and honors, having a lot more other things named after him. He has also founded several social organizations.
Leadership Lessons from Andrew Carnegie
1. The value of hard work
Andrew Carnegie is an example of how having a strong work ethic leads to success. His superiors noticed his hard work, and promoted his despite his young age.
There are no shortcuts to success. In this world of instant gratification, we need to remember this principle. Success in life comes after years of working hard.
We often see stories of people who seemingly became successful overnight. However, you only see a snapshot of their success; what you don’t see was the effort they put in, the sacrifices they made and the failures they overcame while on the road to success. It’s great to be inspired by other’s successes, but never forget that they’ve worked hard to get there.
2. Networking is important
Andrew Carnegie understood the importance of networking and he purposefully connected with people of prominence in his community whenever he had the chance. His connections ultimately led him to invaluable collaborations and partnerships for his business.
Your network is your net worth. While it is important to gain knowledge and skills, it’s even better if you can find someone who already has all those skills and is willing to partner with you. Spend more time getting to know people both within and outside of your industry, as these connections can be valuable in the future.
3. Give back
At age 33, Andrew Carnegie was already doing extremely well in life, making roughly $50,000 a year. However, he found emptiness in his riches. It was then that he realized that a life lived only for one’s self was a very empty life.
As a leader, understand that we live to give value to the people around us. This includes the people you benefit through your organization. If you seek to succeed at the expense of others, or to take and hoard, you’ll find yourself living an empty life.
It is important to give back and to impart that same giving attitude to your team. Your impact as a leader is not just in dollars and cents; if you can effect positive change in the world, even in a small way, you can count yourself successful as a leader.
Books about Andrew Carnegie
Presented in a dramatic writing style, David Nasaw brings us the unbelievably true story of the founder of Carnegie Steel; Andrew Carnegie. Read all about the man who gained a massive fortune and earnestly gave it all away.
Take a step back into time and learn how one of the greatest industrialists also became one of the greatest philanthropists. Andrew Carnegie recalls his personal development and interactions with some of the most influential people of the time.
Who was the “Captain of industry”? How did Andrew Carnegie come to play a pivotal role in Industrial America? Read all about his ascent to unimaginable wealth and his later philosophy of philanthropy.
Quotes from Andrew Carnegie
The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.
The man who acquires the ability to take full possession of his own mind may take possession of anything else to which he is justly entitled.
The men who have succeeded are men who have chosen one line and stuck to it.
There is little success where there is little laughter.
There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else.
Think of yourself as on the threshold of unparalleled success. A whole, clear, glorious life lies before you. Achieve! Achieve!
Whatever I engage in, I must push inordinately.
You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb.
You must capture and keep the heart of the original and supremely able man before his brain can do its best.
Do not look for approval except for the consciousness of doing your best.
Do your duty and a little more and the future will take care of itself.
Every act you have ever performed since the day you were born was performed because you wanted something.
He that cannot reason is a fool. He that will not is a bigot. He that dare not is a slave.
I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution.
I shall argue that strong men, conversely, know when to compromise and that all principles can be compromised to serve a greater principle.
No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.
Aim for the highest.
And while the law of competition may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department.
As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
Concentrate your energies, your thoughts and your capital. The wise man puts all his eggs in one basket and watches the basket.
Concentration is my motto – first honesty, then industry, then concentration.
No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.
People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.
Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.
The ‘morality of compromise’ sounds contradictory. Compromise is usually a sign of weakness, or an admission of defeat. Strong men don’t compromise, it is said, and principles should never be compromised.
Andrew Carnegie Leadership Video
Watch the documentary “Andrew Carnegie: Prince of Steel”:
More Business Leader Profiles
For leadership profiles of other famous business leaders, including Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and Warren Buffett, check out our Business Leadership Profiles section.
Also check out our Leadership Profiles book series. In each book, we study 10 influential leaders in Business, Military, Politics and Sports.