Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

The man who became Fortune's Businessperson of the Year

November 19, 2010: 12:37 PM ET

by Patricia Sellers

I have to admit that even among Fortune staffers, most of us predicted that Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs or Ford's (F) turnaround chief, Alan Mulally, would be selected as the magazine's Businessperson of the Year.

What a surprise that No. 1 on the list is Reed Hastings, the founder, chairman and CEO of Netflix.

Hastings is a great choice, actually. The 50-person ranking is about 2010's top movers and shakers. No question, Hastings and the company he started in 1997 have moved. Netflix (NFLX) shares are up more than 200% since January, vs. the S&P 500's 7% gain. And as the just-released Fortune cover story on Hastings says, Netflix stock has run laps around Apple's.

No question too, Hastings is shaking things up. Netflix has upended the movie distribution business. It threatens the cable giants. And Hastings has had the guts to compete against himself--to cannibalize his own business and reinvent Netflix.

Over the years, I've come to know Hastings a bit. Trust me, he's also a really good guy. Way back when, before he got interested in business, he served in the Peace Corps, teaching math in Swaziland. When he came back to the U.S., he earned his master's degree in computer science at Stanford. Then he decided to become an entrepreneur--starting a software company that made him a bundle of money but was, in his view, culturally dysfunctional. That experience gave Hastings the  lessons in leadership plus the kind of humility you need to be great CEO today.

A year ago, Hastings wrote a Guest Post for Postcards about one of his early lessons in leadership lesson at another messed-up startup. You can click here to pick up a few pointers and to get a sense of the man who is now Fortune's 2010 Businessperson of the Year.

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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