Nancy McKinstry, chief executive officer and chairwoman of the multinational publisher Wolters Kluwer, describes herself as an analytical person.
She also calls herself an “insider-outsider” who knows her company thoroughly from the inside but also is an outsider in the sense that she became its first non-Dutch CEO and the first woman to lead it.
In a recent interview about her style, the Connecticut native elaborated on two important skills for leaders: the ability to communicate and tenacity.
On communication: “The only way to drive forward a successful organization is to create an environment where people feel comfortable enough to raise difficult issues,” she says. “When I became CEO in 2003, I toured the operation and went to Germany, where people are very respectful of hierarchy. We had the town hall meeting and were trying to get people to ask questions, but the only two brave souls who would ask questions were retiring that year.”
Now McKinstry goes to Germany enough that she’s become a familiar figure and employees feel more comfortable speaking with her.
On tenacity: McKinstry likes hiring people who have overcome adversity. In the publishing industry’s volatile environment, she says, you need workers who can adjust, who have “that kind of nimble tenacity that drives them forward.”
She believes deeply in perseverance. She learned to read at age 4 and by the time she was 6 years old had read The Little Engine That Could about 150 times.
“I just loved it and I kept reading it over and over again,” she says. “I think it influenced my sense that tenacity is important.”
— Adapted from “The Specialist,” Simon Hobbs, CNBC European Business.