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Success tips from a pioneering CEO

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

As the first woman to lead a major bank in Australia, Gail Kelly has developed a down-to-earth leadership philosophy. Soon after retiring as CEO of Westpac, she reflected on her pioneering career and highlighted keys to her success.

For Kelly, 60, the single most important question a leader can ask is, “Are the right people in the right roles?” That means evaluating employees’ strengths and weaknesses with care—and aligning job responsibilities accordingly.

Speaking from experience, Kelly warns that self-doubt can undermine a leader’s potential. She confesses that throughout her life, she has periodically thought to herself, “Gosh, I’m not good enough, I’m not adequate, I’m not going to do this well. I might fail, what happens if I fail?”

Rather than succumb to such self-sabotage, Kelly responds by giving herself a pep talk. Instead of allowing her doubts to take hold, she maintains her perspective.

“I’m going to back myself,” she would say to bolster her confidence. “There are others out there who are going to support me, there are others out there that want me to win.”

Another element of Kelly’s success flows from what she calls “generosity of spirit,” which she defines as believing in the power of one person to make a positive difference. Guided by her faith in staffers to do their best for the greater good of the organization, she would show respect for them and lay the groundwork for them to thrive.

“People who do not practice generosity of spirit are binary: black or white, right or wrong,” she warns. “They are quick to judge, intolerant, they shoot messengers, they take credit for work that others do.”

— Adapted from “Westpac CEO Gail Kelly’s seven lessons for life and business,” Gail Kelly, www.smh.com.au.

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