Those who lead from the C-suite win these roles by way of two distinct and overlapping skills sets.The first is job-related. The second, career related.
Your arrival at the C-suite will not happen by accident, coincidence or luck.
Nor will it result from being smart, accomplished and talented…alone. You have to pave your path, then move along down the road, purposefully and with a plan.
Over the years I’ve had many conversations with clients and non-clients who are, or will soon be, C-suite leaders. If you’d like to know how they get there, read on.
Many in the C-suite discover their leadership capabilities early on or mid-career. Some know during their college years or even younger, that they want to be in charge; to run something; to be the final decision maker; to be at the top; to be in front setting the direction. For the best of the best, this is not an ego thing, but excitement about what’s possible, and confidence in their ability to make it happen. Regardless of when, these emerging leaders simply want to take new ideas, themselves and others, further down Possibility-to-Reality Road. Their arrival at the C-Suite is both organic and planned.
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Insights into those working with the world's poor, including this leader, sheds light on moldering, out-of-date leadership practices and new ways of leading that have yet to take hold.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.
"Being liked is overrated," writes Jessica Valenti in The Nation. She's primarily writing about women — for whom likability is negatively correlated with success — but her advice is useful for the yes-men out there, too.
Charisma distracts, destructs, and rewards the wrong leaders.
Although it over 20 years since this paradox was first noted, we are still reluctant to look for leadership potential beyond the people who self-nominate for the role — mostly by bullying and stepping on others. This is one of the principal reasons for the low representation of female leaders in senior political or corporate roles; it also explains why the few women who managed to break through the glass ceiling exhibit more aggressive, ruthless, and pathologically ambitious personalities than their male counterparts (think Marissa Mayer or Margaret Thatcher).
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