By Suzann D. Silverman, Editorial Director
Leadership was a recurring theme during the CREW Network Convention & Marketplace last week, embodied by powerful women who shared secrets to their success. Bookending the event were keynotes from Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman Carla Harris and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
“Hard work matters,” affirmed Albright during Friday’s luncheon keynote, emphasizing the importance of careful preparation and the need to do what makes the most sense from your own perspective rather than what works best for others. She also emphasized the need to “do all we can to keep growing intellectually and personally,” treating every current responsibility as training for the future. Never one to fear her own role, she advised bravery in selecting a team with the right combination of skills, including those you lack: “Aim high, share the work and give credit where due.” Always take initiative. And finally, don’t get hung up on a timetable for achieving your goals, advised the 77-year-old woman, who started her first professional job at age 39, became an ambassador to the United Nations at 55 and rose to Secretary of State at 59. She noted that Eleanor Roosevelt’s important writings took place after age 61. (Reaching the public company C-suite, however, requires embarkment at an earlier age, according to the group of current and retired C-suite members who spoke on Wednesday night’s Distinguished Leaders Roundtable, since public companies tend to be reluctant to hire a leader in their late 50s.)
Harris drew on 28 years on Wall Street, a concurrent career as a gospel singer (who performed at Madison Square Garden two weeks ago prior to the Pope’s mass) and author of the recently published Strategize to Win, to offer the following advice: “Perception is the copilot of reality” (how people perceive you is how they will treat you). There are two types of currency in any environment: performance and relationship. Performance matters most early on, but relationships are far more valuable and will matter more once you’ve been in an environment for three to four years. You must be comfortable taking risks and must think about “Me 2.0” every two to four years. “Fear has no place in your success equation,” and “failure always brings you a gift: experience.” And the most important component of your power is your own authenticity.