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Leadership Tips: Being Prepared May Require Small Talk

Janet Holloway, Women Leading KYJean Hale, Chairman, CEO and President of Community Trust Bancorp, Inc. received a well-deserved, standing ovation at the March Roundtable, and it had to be because her presentation was filled with good advice and great examples for succeeding in business.

Jean admits to being an over-achiever all her life.  “I wanted to be good and I wanted to be first,” she said.  “I had a passion for learning.”  Her first bit of advice for Roundtable attendees was to know your subject matter and be prepared.  In my experience, being prepared gives you confidence, one of the first steps in becoming a leader.  Being prepared requires that you understand the big picture, the details of your work and profession, as well as being able to converse on a variety of topics.

One challenge she acknowledged took place at lunch with Alan Greenspan, when she had to veer off the subject of finance, which she knew well, and make small talk with him.  He was tired; he didn’t want to talk business.  “You can’t imagine how much pressure I felt having to make small talk with Alan Greenspan!”  Being prepared sometimes requires more than just a knowledge of your specific field.

Jean made the distinction between being a manager and a leader: managers plan, organize, and coordinate the organizations’ resources, whereas leaders are those who communicate the company’s vision in a way that encourages others to follow.  Leaders must have passion about what they do.  She insisted on the importance of listening and communicating well.  I would add that using examples, metaphors and story-telling are necessary skills for reaching and engaging other people.

Another quality for success is giving back, looking beyond your own gains to consider others.  As Jean said, “I had a strong need to succeed.  I was one of the very first women in my profession, and I knew that if I failed, I’d mess up opportunities for other women coming up behind me.”

Her advice for women in the field of finance:  if you want to move up, start at a small bank.  If you want to specialize in a particular product, start at a big bank where there is more opportunity.

For Jean’s full presentation at the Roundtable, go online to www.womenleadingky.com for the video.

Janet Steele Holloway
Founder, Women Leading Kentucky
Author, A Willful Child

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