Jacqueline Novogratz of the Acumen Fund, which invests in businesses aiding the world’s poor, says, '...it’s holding that balance of not being reckless, but also having a huge element of fearlessness.'"
Insights into those working with the world's poor, including this leader, sheds light on moldering, out-of-date leadership practices and new ways of leading that have yet to take hold.
Jacqueline Novogratz is the chief executive of the Acumen Fund which invests in businesses aiding the world’s poor. This interview was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.
This also goes with this quote by Arianna Huffington:
"Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me."
Jacqueline Novogratz's approach to leadership:
Leaders can get stuck in groupthink because they’re really not listening, or they’re listening only to what they want to listen to, or they actually think they’re so right there's no listening.
Ask questions in a way that will elicit more nuanced answers...
The kind of leaders we need....are really open to listening to solutions from people who are most impacted by the problems.
I’ll often say at Acumen that you’ve got to learn to listen with your whole body.
Lean in and pay attention to their body language and their level of comfort or discomfort. Ask questions in a way that will elicit more nuanced answers, rather than the answers you would like to get.
Q. What kind of culture are you trying to foster at Acumen?
We are building companies, and so we have to be really accountable. We’ve got to be tough, and yet we have to be very generous, since we’re working in communities where people make a dollar or two dollars a day.
We talk about the power of listening and we juxtapose it with leadership, because sometimes you’ve listened enough, and now it’s time to make a decision.
We think about our values [as] a tension or a balance. We talk about listening and leadership; accountability and generosity; humility and audacity.
You’ve got to have the humility to see the world as it is …working with poor communities, that’s not easy to do — have the audacity to know why you are trying to make it be different, to imagine the way it could be. And then the immutable values are respect and integrity.
We’re building something no one has ever really built before, and so don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Let’s just make the decision to do something.
Q. What are some other lessons you’ve learned about how to lead?
A. ...I have this mantra: Just start and let the work teach you. We’re building something no one has ever really built before, and so don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Let’s just make the decision to do something.
This goes back to audacity and humility. …If you start off talking about all the reasons that you’re not going to get there, you’re not going to get there. …It’s holding that balance of not being reckless, [and] having a huge element of fearlessness.