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 thatguru 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’sis 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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