David Farr loves risks. He believes that good leaders takes risks every day to succeed. Maybe that’s why he is one of the rare breed of CEOs who has held the top job for 17 years and is still going strong. He runs Emerson Electric, a $15 billion manufacturing and technology enterprise ranked 139 on the Fortune 500 list of America’s biggest companies.
“I am constantly preaching that you have to take that risk,” Farr says. “You have to lean into it. If you don’t lean into this and take that risk, you’ll never really find your full potential and you will never totally succeed in what you want in life.”
He speaks from experience. He says the biggest risk he ever took was in 1992 when he volunteered to move to Hong Kong to grow Emerson’s Asia operations. He was only 37 years old and as young executive he had to persuade Emerson’s CEO Charles Knight to take a chance and choose him for the job. Over the next four and a half years, Farr nearly quadruped Emerson’s Asia revenues. By the time he turned 45, Farr was promoted to CEO. “I raised my hand,” says Farr proudly. “A lot of people that didn’t raise their hand, didn’t get that job.”