Condoleezza Rice — the first female national security advisor, the first Black female secretary of state, and a former provost of Stanford University — has advised and led many high-profile teams. But doing so did not come naturally, she said.
“I don’t believe in born leaders,” the 66th US secretary of state told attendees at the eighth annual KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit in Bethesda, Maryland. KPMG is one of the Big Four accounting firms and employs more than 36,000 people in the US. “It takes time to develop certain skills of leadership,” Rice added.
As of 2021, women represent only 8.2% of Fortune 500 leaders, according to a Women CEOs in America report, despite research supporting that women are better leaders than men, especially during crises, a Harvard Business Review analysis found in 2020. KPMG’s Women’s Leadership Summit brings together female business leaders on the path to the C-suite and hosted speakers such as Rice, Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison, and former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi to teach leadership and professional skills.
During her fireside session, Rice said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was someone who was not born knowing how to lead a country through war but rose to the occasion. Similarly, Rice said that throughout her career, she became a better leader from her experiences.
These are the three leadership principles Rice has learned in her 40-year career.
Treat people the way you want to be treated
The first rule of leadership is to treat others the way you would want to be treated — which, for Rice, means practicing honesty and understanding. She learned this lesson as a professor and when, at 38 years old, she was appointed the provost and chief budget officer of Stanford University.
In her first budget meeting as the second-highest-ranking university official, the senior associate dean of the medical school presented his budget. After Rice expressed her confusion about parts of the presentation, the senior associate dean told her that she didn’t understand how medical-school budgeting worked.
Rice took this as an insult to her abilities and responded, “I speak three languages. This isn’t in any of them. Would you like to start over?”
Another senior faculty member in the meeting, who had known Rice since she started her career as a professor, told her while the comeback was “effective,” it wasn’t “smart.” She had shut down the associate dean in front of his colleagues, and that could dissuade others from telling Rice about their needs, she recalled the senior faculty member telling her.
“I would never do that in a class,” she said. If she were to embarrass a student in her class in that way, then the entire class would stop participating, she added. “So I had to relearn that lesson.”
As a leader, it is your responsibility to believe in the capability of your team, Rice said. This means recognizing when someone isn’t performing well and then seeing how you can help them, she added.
“Be positive about what’s possible,” she said, “not just negative.”
Rice recalled when she was faced with a budget problem as provost and assigned one of her managers a project that they seemed unwilling to do. It turned out the manager didn’t know how to do the task. When they found someone to help him with it, he was able to complete it, she said.
Rice said that as a leader, you need to ask your team, “How might you do your job better, and how might we help you do your job better?”
Accept that it won’t always work out
While treating people with compassion is important, leaders have to be honest with themselves when something, or someone, isn’t working out, Rice said.
She said that as a leader, you need to be comfortable saying, “I value you as a person. I value the service you’ve given here, but frankly, I think we need to find something else for you.”
And if you fumble while implementing any of these leadership principles, don’t worry, Rice said.
“If you make a mistake early on it’s OK. You’ll get it right the second time around,” she said.
Credit: Source link