Lan Nguyen 0:00
There may be paths to leadership – some stumble upon it while others seek out the opportunity. In this special edition of Her Story, we’ve asked a few of our guests if they consider themselves to be an accidental or intentional leader. So let’s jump right in. First up is Ceci Connolly, President and CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans.
Ceci Connolly 0:21
My poor parents who knew me from day one would probably say that I was a little bit of an insufferable, bossy first child. But since most of my career track and aspiration was to be a journalist, no, it wasn’t necessarily leadership.
Lan Nguyen 0:36
Nancy-Ann DeParle is managing partner and co-founder of Consonance Capital Partners, and former assistant to President Barack Obama,
Nancy-Ann DeParle 0:44
I would say intentional, and by that, I mean, it’s interesting that you chose those words, accidental or intentional, not natural. I don’t think I’m a natural leader. I think I’m, among other things, an introvert, I’ve come to realize, I need a lot of time alone. And I find, for example, what we did during the Affordable Care Act in the seven-in-the-morning till nine-at-night, being with other people, and leading, if you will, to be very draining, I have to force myself to do the things that I think a leader does – to be outspoken to deliver the bad news, as you say, to be pragmatic and push forward. So in my case, I think it’s intentional.
Lan Nguyen 1:29
Carolyn Witte is the co-founder and CEO of Tia.
Carolyn Witte 1:32
I always wanted to be a leader, I just didn’t know I wanted—a leader and entrepreneur were not the same things in my mind. And so I think I had really amazing leadership opportunities while at Google, and I think there was a moment in this conversation of, “Should I quit my (then) dream job to go to the next dream job that was higher risk?” Kind of had this conversation, I remember, with my dad, explaining, like, I feel like I have so much influence and impact within this billion-user products and like all of these things, and he asked me. I remember having this conversation vividly: “What do you want to have influence? Or do you want to be the decision-maker? Like, are you, do you like making decisions? Or do you like influencing other people who make decisions? Because that’s really what it’s about, the difference. Like, you can influence other people who make decisions. And ultimately, like, if you made the wrong decision, Google’s gonna be just fine. If or do you make the decision yourself and then live or die by those consequences?” And not, I think, is a very stark picture of the difference in entrepreneurial oriented leadership. And I was interested in trying that out.
Lan Nguyen 2:36
Dr. Vineet Arora is a professor of medicine and the Associate Chief Medical Officer for Clinical Learning at the University of Chicago Medicine.
Dr. Vineet Arora 2:45
It was really that paper from JAMA Internal Medicine, emailed me, that kind of got my blood curdling to be like, this is a gender gap, and it’s written by men, and it’s not framed well. And so I’m going to go out there and start talking about this. And I wrote an editorial and it ended up being featured in The New York Times. And so that’s really what led me on this path. And so I would definitely say I’m accidental. The only intentional thing that I will say that I’ve ever done is when I interviewed for chief residency, that first leadership job, my chair asked me, who should I pick to be chief resident, and we all knew who was being interviewed. And I said, you should pick me and I was apparently the only one that said that. And so perhaps that was an accident. But also it was really an upbringing of my parents to be like, put yourself out there. I do think the intentional part about it is don’t not see yourself as a leader, because that was an important key point.
Lan Nguyen 3:37
And wrapping us up is Carolyn Magill, CEO of Aetion.
Carolyn Magill 3:40
I’m likely more of an intentional than an accidental leader. I’m one of four kids born in five years, and I’m the oldest girl. So to pave my way in this family, I likely learned early on that by using my voice and having an opinion, I was more likely to create an outcome that I wanted. So I’m sure that that helps become more deliberate in pursuing leadership. And then I think there are discoveries that you make along the way about the context in which, maybe you can become a leader. And those are serendipitous more than anything else.
There are moments like when I was in the second grade, it was the end of the school year, I had this teacher, Mrs. [inaudible], she says, “Oh, we’re switching classrooms, moving my classroom to next year. So I need students to help me move bookcases and desks and such from this room to the room that I’m going to for next year.” So she called a few of my classmates to help her. And they were all boys. And I was like, “I’m stronger than them – faster than them, too. Why isn’t she asking for more help from the girls in the room?” So I stayed in from recess. And I wrote her a note, and I said, “Girls are just as strong as boys. Why can’t we help you?” And I remember being nervous. I remember leaving it on her desk. She wasn’t in there. I left it on her desk, and then we came back from after recess. And Mrs. [inaudible] stands at the front of the class, and she says, “Class, I have an apology to make.” And she apologizes for not choosing girls to help her move the furniture. And she’s like, “Carolyn, won’t you choose a couple of girls to help you and you can take that bookcase.” And it’s moments like that – she certainly didn’t have to apologize. She certainly didn’t have to call it out in front of the whole class. But the fact that she did, and then she changed her course of action, that’s an empowering leadership moment. And I wasn’t aspiring to be a leader. I was mad. Those are the kinds of things that help you – you experience something like that. And you think, “Oh if I speak up, I’m rewarded.” Yes, it becomes less accidental over time because you start realizing, well, I want to affect this change, or I want this outcome, and if I don’t talk about it, or I don’t try to do something differently, then it may never happen.
Lan Nguyen 5:57
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