Valued mentors taught me important personal leadership lessons. From them, I’ve learned a great deal about the source of true success.
Be authentically you. I once believed success required “being one of the boys.” I wore the same blue suit and foulard tie as the men in the cubicles around me in the bank where I started my career. showing “womanly” traits like compassion and caring meant giving away power.
Over time, I met leaders, women and men, who got their power by simply being themselves. By expressing empathy and bringing out every employee’s best self, they had the power to make you feel you could do anything.
Consultants who helped hallmark conduct an employee engagement survey remarked that a company’s leadership effectiveness was revealed by one bellwether statement: “My manager really cares about my well-being.” It was a great reminder that caring can be the most powerful leadership attribute of all.
Say yes to opportunities. I was working at Fisher-Price Toys when Mattel acquired it for its growth potential in international markets, and our president asked me to lead the new international division. I would travel the world and teach Mattel employees how to sell Fisher-price products. The employees would report to Mattel, not me, so success would require quickly assessing markets and offering ideas that really built the business. That scared me! but I said yes. The international offices successfully built sales and market share and, based on that growth, the merger is considered among the industry’s most successful. I learned volumes about saying yes, even to opportunities that scare me.
Have the right questions and the right people. i once assumed effective leadership meant having all the answers. Then another president, this time at hallmark, asked me to leave my role overseeing a wholesale business to become the head merchant of hallmark retail. it required recruiting executives from leading specialty retailers, managers who would know more about retailing than i did. leading meant conveying a vision for the business, setting a clear strategy, and tapping into others’ expertise. Our team now is two years into the turnaround of one of america’s largest specialty store networks. and i’ve learned that true leadership means letting people find answers for themselves and blending diverse backgrounds and perspectives to find the best solutions to business problems.