AIB Featured Business Leader Mark Parker

AIB Featured Business Leader  Mark Parker


While you may not know his name, you are sure to know the brand in which he is the CEO of – Nike. Dubbed ‘the Steve Jobs of sneakers’, Mark Parker certainly had big shoes to fill when he became the President and third ever CEO of Nike Inc. in 2006. Born in New York in 1955, Parker was always expected to pursue something in the area of athletics. As a competitive runner on the Penn State track and cross-country teams, he displayed a keen interest in the industry early on. Besides being on the track team, Parker also earned his Bachelor of Political Science in 1977.

Shortly after graduating university, Parker joined Nike as a footwear designer based in New Hampshire. He worked hard to progress in the ranks, being promoted to roles such as Manager of Advanced Product Design, Director of Design Concepts, and Manager of Running & Fitness Footwear Marketing in a matter of years. Over the years, he served in development, research and designed based roles, before being promoted to Co-President of the Nike Brand, and eventually the CEO.

As CEO of Nike, Parker is said to still play a very active role in shoe design, working closely with creatives within the organisation. According to The Business Journal, it was Parker’s leadership which saw Nike have an extraordinary year in 2014, with a 10 percent sales jump, and a 23 percent rise in its stock prices. In addition, the company’s HQ also plans to add 1.3 million square feet as a part of a large expansion project. It is clear that Parker’s tactics are leading to success, but what are they exactly?

Mark Parker is known to have a very innovative vision, and prides himself on remaining active within the company. “The commitment to great design and to innovation – that’s really at the core of any successful business, and it’s a prerequisite to realise your great potential as a company”, he has explained. Alongside innovation and great designs, Parker is committed to ensuring that Nike remain environmentally friendly, with the launch of the first “Green Shoe” after ten years of work.

One of Parker’s most well known quotes caused some controversy, but is a very realistic approach on branding once your company reaches large proportions. “The last thing we want is to be a big dumb company that feels we can put a swoosh on something and people will buy that”, he said. He has a view on leadership which focuses on looking for ways to improve, and constantly adapting to the business environment.  He also added, “We have challenges but challenges have always made us better and stronger”.

What do you think?

It is clear that the leadership style and career of Mark Parker is fascinating. I am curious – what is the biggest lesson you’ve taken away from his career? Comment below and join the conversation.

This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: 

Fast CompanyNikeBusiness Management DegreeBloombergWikipedia; and World of CEOs

Image Credit: Nike

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