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  • Writer's pictureJudy C. Arnold

Be fearless and get uncomfortable — lessons learned from the C-suite

Can you stay focused on your mission despite the noise — whether it’s the challenging economy or unforeseen circumstances like the pandemic? Are you empathetic and transparent with employees? Do you listen without bias and provide honest feedback to others?

These are just some of the valuable insights and advice shared by the all-female, C-level executives at a recent event I attended, Lessons from the C-suite, hosted by Women in Investing of Philadelphia (WIN). The panel featured Erica Evans, Head of Client Engagement, Hirtle Callaghan, Cathy Ulozas, Chief Investment Officer, Drexel University, and Alison Rogers-McCoy, Chief Human Resources Officer, Brandywine Global and was moderated by Katie Hamill, Head of Talent, Hirtle Callaghan & Co.

Each panelist had a very unique story and journey. While some were always focused on constantly moving upward in their careers, others opportunistically discovered paths taking them into top leadership roles they had not anticipated.

A leader maintains perspective

Erica spoke about the importance of strong leadership traits — maintaining perspective, communicating clearly, being adaptable and empathetic. She pointed out, “You can’t go anywhere on your own, you need to take people with you.”

Cathy noted how critical it is to listen without bias and to honestly give feedback to employees, peers, your boss and customers. Allison added that it’s important for leaders to provide psychological safety by creating an environment where people can say things even if unpopular.

Reading between the lines of a resume

They also provided refreshing perspectives regarding what they look for when hiring. It’s about more than industry experience. Look beyond technical skills since much of that can be taught. Instead, identify candidates who have a growth mindset, are curious, self-reflective, solution-oriented and offer viewpoints from other industries.

Uncover those who understand it’s okay to fail and learn from it. It’s not about perfection but having the personal insight to recognize if something didn’t go well, diagnose why, and do something differently and better the next time.

If only I had known earlier

There was a common theme when the panel was asked to provide advice to their younger selves. Don’t be afraid. Make the best out of bad situations and learn from them. Plans change. When presented with opportunities and choices, it can change your perspective. Stop saying no and explore. That’s how you grow and learn.

Be fearless and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Who knows, it may just lead you to the C-suite, too.

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