From Actor to CEO?

I found this past week’s “Corner Office” in The New York Times particularly provocative. Adam Bryant interviewed Caryl M. Stern, president and chief executive of the U.S. Fund for Unicef. Her background is diverse and interesting. She graduated from Westchester Community College where she was involved in theatre. Mr. Bryant acknowledged she was one of several CEO’s he has interviewed who also studied theatre. What was the lesson? This was her answer:

“You need to be able to get up and deliver the good news and the bad news. It’s just that same feeling before you go on stage, and you take that deep breath. In my organization now, with several hundred people working for me, I have to be that policeman and that show leader at the same time. So what better training is there?”

The article is worth a read. One other interesting aspect was how she effectively used coaches to help her leadership team grow and congeal; not just in skills, in relationships and process. She touts an interesting exercise I have used hundreds of times with boards and leadership teams:

Think about how you would like an article in The New York Times to depict your company five years from now. What would you have done? What would you have accomplished? What would it feel like? What would you as an employee expect? What would you, as a boss, want from your employees? What’s the environment?

So it wasn’t only about what they will achieve, but how they were going to get there. Now, there’s the juice!