What makes a leader?
Facebook VP Carolyn Everson believes that leadership depends on human qualities. “They all happen to end in Y,” she says, launching her alphabetical riff. “Authenticity, and bravery, and curiosity, and diversity…
“You have deep empathy for other people, and put yourself in other people's situations. Generosity—you give more than you take as a leader. You have humility that we don't have all of the answers…”
Everson shares this insight and lots more on our new episode of Making a Leader on SiriusXM. My co-host, Nina Easton, and I interviewed Everson—one of the most powerful executives in global advertising—and a CEO who was, decades ago, her best friend in 4th grade.
Nina and I were not familiar with James Rhee before Everson suggested that he join her on our show—where we interview successful leadership duos. Rhee is the unlikely executive chairman and CEO of Ashley Stewart, a retailer that caters to plus-sized black women. The son of immigrants from Korea, Rhee had not worked a day in retail until he joined Ashley Stewart as chief. His reason for taking the job? It was the only way he could imagine staving off bankruptcy for the retailer, which had lost money for 22 years straight and was an ugly stain on his private-equity portfolio.
Rhee saw something great in Ashley Stewart. “I said, ‘This place has grit. There’s something here.” As he visited stores, he saw women—customers and managers—display confidence because Ashley Stewart was “a safe place.”
Rhee planned to stay six months. That was six years ago. Today, as executive chairman and CEO, he is leading a thriving, growing company.
Everson and Rhee don’t work together, but they have plenty in common. They both do business with their whole selves—heart and soul and brain. They both understand that great businesses—think Facebook, Apple, Google, Uber, and yes, Ashley Stewart—depend on community-building. And they both know how to build strong communities.
These two superstars began to understand and do all that when they were growing up together, as outliers and underdogs, in middle-class Long Island, New York. Starting there, they learned to lead.
On Making a Leader, award-winning interviewers (and Co-CEOs of SellersEaston Media) Pattie Sellers and Nina Easton bring listeners up close and personal with extraordinary leadership duos. Listen to this episode of Making a Leader on SiriusXM Insight Channel 121 Tuesday, September 10, at 7 pm and 10 pm ET. This show will repeat on Insight Channel 121 on Wednesday, September 11, at 10 pm, Saturday, September 14, at 6 pm, and Sunday, September 15, at 4 pm.