There is no one path to leadership. However, for each of us there are underlying tenets that make the journey more straightforward. Upon reflection, four key elements have guided me professionally.
The first two were instilled in me at an early age by my parents. They believed that I could, would, and should be the best at all to which I aspired. This ranged from academics to sports to non-curricular activities. When there was a discrepancy (and there were many), their questions to me were always the same—where did you err, do you understand why, and then, try better next time. I never felt pressured—instead, I felt empowered and confident.
My parents also instilled in me the belief that one’s integrity was to be ferociously guarded—nothing was worth its sacrifice. Integrity can take a lifetime to build but can be lost in an instant. I believe that the strength of one’s integrity defines you regardless of your position.
The next tenet was developed after years of observation. There are many reasons why people find they can’t do something until someone comes along and just does it. It is an attitude. I have found it to be a common trait of the most successful people. I try not to concern myself with the reasons why I can’t accomplish something, I just find the way that I can.
Finally, I learned from a great leader the true power of candor. It can be difficult to tell a colleague your true feelings, especially if it is less than positive. It is difficult to deliver negative information. When there is an alignment of interest, this “com- passionate candor,” while difficult to hear, is very much appreciated as few people are willing to share it. Not only does it help inspire better outcomes, but it creates rewarding and powerful relationships. It has been transformative for me.
How has education affected your career?
After a brief stint as the first female engineer at a plant in Chicago, I soon realized that plant work was not for me. I returned for my master’s degree and entered the banking and then capital markets fields. However, the foundation that my engineering education provided—a repetitious, logical, problem-solving approach to business—has served me well throughout my career and is what I base nearly all of my decision making upon.
Is there a role model who has had a profound impact on your career and/or life? What did he/she motivate you to do?
Outside of my parents, I have been fortunate to have a life filled with impactful role models. They each began as a dear friend and as we have aged together they each have become an inspiration. Whether we began as classmates, coworkers, or joint volunteers, these women amaze me with their capacity for accomplishment, commitment to work/ life balance, shared wisdom, competitive spirit, and unwavering support of me and each other. We see in each other the potential of what we can become, the belief that we will achieve it, and the desire to make each other proud. It is the essence of both motivation and support.