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Never Duck the Tough Questions

| August 3, 2010

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Reading, “Never Duck the Tough Questions”, is an interview with Dawn Lepore, chair and CEO of  The interview was conducted by Adam Bryant and originally appeared in the Corner Office column of the July 18, 2010 New York Times.

What impressed me from the column was the set of leadership lessons Ms Lepore learned over the several positions she has held from managing Schwab’s information center beginning in 1983 to being CEO of today:

1.  Every time you take on a new role, building credibility in the new role is important.  You build credibility by rolling up your sleeves, by showing commitment, by proving you are willing to learn, and by asking for help.

2. Take on, even volunteer for, tough assignments, things nobody wanted to do, things thought to be impossible to do, thankless tasks.

3.  Take risks.

4.  Synthesize ideas, options, etc.  (If the importance of synthesizing ideas is of interest to you, you may want to watch Matt Ridley’s TED talk “When ideas have sex” which you’ll find at <>.)

5.  Build relationships.

6.  Become comfortable with ambiguity.

7.  Communicate, especially about where you are leading the organization.

8.  Generate early wins – in your tenure in an organization, at the beginning of a new project, etc.

9.  Be transparent in all you do.

10.  Be willing to take criticism openly.  The worst thing you can do is to have people with stuff on their minds that they won’t tell you.

11.  When hiring look for intellect, experience, cultural fit, how setbacks and tough times were handled, what the candidate is proud of.

12.  Light bulb or gun:  The light bulb is something Lepore finds interesting – what do you think.  The gun is something she wants done.

Lots of food for thought and perhaps some ideas you will want to incorporate into your repertoire .


.  .  .  .    jim