Magazine article Success

Stepping Forward

Magazine article Success

Stepping Forward

Article excerpt

As I was thinking about writing this column for SUCCESS--my first as Leadership Editor--I wondered how some people become leaders in the first place. What makes one person step forward to hone those skills when others don't?

In my case, there might have been a few signs in my childhood. We lived in Georgia, way out in the country, and I was my own best playmate. I had to be creative! I couldn't get on my bicycle and ride over to visit the kid next door. He was too far away. So I developed the ability to be absolutely fine by myself. To this day I still have it. I travel by myself, I have dinner by myself, but most important, I am comfortable with myself.

That was very helpful when my own path toward leadership became clear. Twenty-six years ago I worked at a financial services company, A.L. Williams & Associates, which was renamed and underwent a host of other changes before, eventually, I went on to serve as co-CEO. In 1989 our company was sold to Citigroup, which was then headed by Wall Street wonders Sandy Weill and Jamie Dimon, and it was a big sea change for us. Suddenly we were owned by these guys from New York who really didn't know anything about our business.

During this trying time, I stepped forward. There was nothing mysterious about what I did. It was as simple as building relationships with the people sent down from New York and being strong enough to take a stand and talk to them without kowtowing and being intimidated. I earned their respect.

For me that experience underscored the importance of sheer likability. …

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