Ten Questions

May 22, 2012 2:52 pm

Ten Questions - Gail Romero

Q&A: Gail Romero

Gail Romero: "Learn how to lead leaders"

Gail Romero is chief executive of MBA Women International, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the advancement of businesswomen. Her area of expertise includes building coalitions, strategic alliances, communications plans and strengthening board performance.

In her spare time, Ms Romero enjoys scuba diving, remodelling houses, watching Formula 1 and making cupcakes. She is also the executive producer of Rainmakers TV, a programme that interviews people who make a difference and has served as a visiting professor at a variety of universities.

Ms Romero will be available for a live web chat on Thursday, 24 May 2012, between 15.00 and 16.00 BST. Post your questions now to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day.

1. Who are your business heroes?

Abraham Lincoln, who is a distant relative, for his writing and oratory skills and leadership during a crisis in US history; Eleanor Roosevelt who managed to make a major contribution to the world in the shadow of a great man; Muhammad Yunis, Nobel Laureate who I have met several times; Susan Davis of BRAC USA, a development organisation dedicated to alleviating poverty; Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state whom I had the pleasure of interviewing - she has a keen wit, a sharp intellect and great shoes; Cherie Blair, the British barrister; Ruth MacKenzie, director of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad; my mother and my husband, who supports my passion to guide women into leadership roles throughout the world.

2. What would you do if you were dean of a business school for the day?

Make sure everyone writes a paper on ethics, integrity and transparency and maybe throw in a little about the rule of law.

3. Where would be your favourite place to study?

I read everywhere – I carry books in my car, my bag, suitcase, bedside table and generally have several books going at once. If I could pick a spot, it would be on my veranda, on a sunny day (a treat in Seattle) with a nice glass of wine.

4. Who is your ideal professor?

God – can you imagine sitting down with Him and talking about your dissertation?

5. What advice would you give to women in business education?

If you are going to be following a career path that will eventually get you into a leadership role there are three levels that are critical to learn early on: lead yourself - know who you are, go deep and find out what makes you tick. Learn how to lead others - it begins with trust, integrity, honesty, accountability and perseverance. Learn how to lead leaders - this is the toughest skill set of all as you have to be externally and internally facing at the same time. This is not a job for lightweights! You must be verbally persuasive, fiscally aware and strategic in your plan.

6. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

I have come to understand more about what makes men react and am not about to take a lot of it personally. I also understand that, culturally, men have leverage as typically they have a social system that provides sponsors, mentors and the vast numbers that maintain the male-dominated environments at the higher leadership levels. It isn’t going to change overnight. I highly recommend any woman to read the book Leadership of the Sexes by Michael Gurian and Barbara Annis, which puts a lot of this into perspective. It makes it easier to understand on one hand – and more difficult to rationalise why more men don’t see the advantage of having a higher representation of women in the C Suite.

7. What is the worst job you have ever had?

I had a client that was passive aggressive – it turned out to be a big part of the corporate culture. When I found out that the entire leadership had taken a personality test to see how their team would work together I wanted to see the graphed results - turns out they had hired their own personalities. Except for one lone ‘creative’ they were all ‘analytics’ which was why, as the world was changing, they couldn’t get out of their own way. They obviously hadn’t ever read the leadership fable, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

8 . What is the last book you read?

The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton. He did a global survey on what people desire most in the world. A total of 150 countries and multiple demographics later, the answer was a resounding and simple response: a good job! With a good job you can have clean water and sanitation, healthcare, food and education for your children - talk about a simple solution. Leadership building is the key, we need more leaders in the pipeline to become entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. We currently don’t have enough jobs to go around – but if we had more leaders to build small to medium-sized companies, there would be more jobs.

9. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

Be more strategic about my education. I was always a good student but I didn’t know myself well enough to know what I wanted to do or was good at. I should have spent more time getting to know myself. I can’t stress it enough with our young women leaders – knowing how to ‘lead self’ is key to success.

10. What are your future plans?

I am currently working on building a leadership academy for women, a global institution that offers numerous opportunities no matter where you are in your career. I would also like to meet the chief executive of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and ask him why he didn’t have a woman on his team as he was taking Facebook to IPO. What was he thinking?

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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