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Campbell’s ‘soup-er’ woman

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership

When The Wall Street Journal interviewed Denise Morrison in 2007, she was president of Campbell USA. Senior executives usually downplay their ambitions, but Morrison boldly told the re­­porter that she wanted to become CEO of a large corporation.

Her bluntness stunned some readers. One of Morrison’s friends asked, “Why did you do that? What if you don’t get it?”

But confidence drives Morrison. From a young age, she learned to think big and express her views forthrightly.

“I believe that when you have goals you declare them, and I believe in setting long-term goals and working to achieve them,” she says. “I always had a long-term plan for my career and I was willing to do many different positions along the way to develop the skills to not only get the job, but to be great at the job. So I put it out there.”

The gambit worked. In 2011, she be­came Campbell Soup Company’s CEO—the 12th leader in the firm’s 142-year history.

Her mentor and Campbell’s former CEO, Doug Conant, says that Morrison possesses key traits that management guru Jim Collins has identified as critical to CEO success: humility and perseverance. She’s also open to learning and favors a collaborative style when devising strategy.

In her first year as CEO, Morrison has gained support from an accomplished sibling. Her sister, Maggie Wilderotter, is chairwoman and CEO of Frontier Communications, one of America’s biggest communication ­service providers. Both Denise and Maggie are among the Fifty Most ­Powerful Women in Business, according to ­Fortune.

Maggie, who serves as a sounding board for her sister, says that what im­presses her most about Denise’s leadership is her ability to learn. Because CEOs face a range of challenges, a leader who listens and absorbs new information tends to make better decisions.

— Adapted from “Soup-er woman,” Richard Deitsch, The Costco Connection.

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Lynn October 28, 2013 at 11:14 am

I once had a seemingly unresolvable issue with my service at Frontier…..Maggie Wilderotter personaly emailed me and worked with her staff to resolve the ongoing issue, all the way through to completion. I was duly impressed that she worked so obligingly with myself and her team to assist a single, simple customer. I wish there were more CEOs who followed in her lead; it fosters incredible customer loyalty and truly makes me wish I had her as a role-model in my career!

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