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October 19, 2009

CEO Leadership Advice: Know Thyself

Catherine New
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“These are hard times and it’s nasty out there,” Shumeet Banerji, the CEO of Booz & Company, told students in early October. “But hold your nerve. It is getting better and recovery is long and slow.”

Banerji visted Columbia Business School as part of the Silfen Leadership Series and gave an hour-long presentation on career and leadership topics and answered questions. He encouraged students to focus on developing well-rounded characters rather than overly focusing on résumé success.

“It is important to know thyself. Acquiring self-consciousness is the most exquisite transformation that you make in your 30s and 40s,” he said. “Learn what you are good and bad at. Especially what you are bad at.” He also suggested that good leaders think in six to eight month campaigns. “Taken together, they are a course of action,” he said.

He offered 10 career development tips:

1. Pay attention to human capital and who you are as a human being; consider how you think about and construct problems.

2. Get and feed a network. If you only get in touch with people when you need something, it doesn’t work. Be helpful to others as well, even if it’s difficult to take the time and effort.

3. Find mentors. No one is good enough to sort out his problems on his own. Good mentors are the ones who have influenced you and paid attention to you. They not only advocate for you, but they are critical of you as well.

4. Seek diverse experiences and stretch yourself into areas where you are not naturally comfortable. Diverse experience builds character.

5. Be curious about the world and its issues; despite the pain of the financial crisis, it has been an accelerated learning curve.

6. Be interested or else you can’t be interesting. Nothing is worse than a dull dinner companion — you can be interested in anything.

7. Form an educated and distinctive point of view. It helps you make sense of abstraction. Have a worldview to see what forces are at play.

8. Read. At the minimum read a daily financial paper and a dozen good books a year.

9. Look after yourself. Careers are an endurance game and work happens to you more than any other activity.

10. Make time for people you love and who love you. It’s too early to let these people become a subsidiary early in your career. The thing about time is that it is very unforgiving.

Photo courtesy of Silfen Leadership Series

Comments

by Francie Dalton | October 19, 2009 at 12:02 PM

Ask for help when you need it. Nothing is more disarming than a senior executive who acknowledges the resident brain trust. Demonstrate the belief that your own success is dependent upon collaboration with others committed to the success of the organization.

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