The 3 words that guide Prudential’s CEO

As CEO of Prudential Group Insurance, Lori Fouche is one of the most powerful women in business. The 47-year-old credits her success in part to her ability to describe her leadership style succinctly.

Effective leaders can summarize their philosophy “in one or two sentences,” she says. That’s better than overcomplicating their approach.

She urges leaders to communicate their leadership strategy in plain English to their staff. Ideally, employees should be able to understand their leader’s style right away—without guessing what the leader expects.

Fouche has devised what she calls “Lori’s Leadership List” (listen, learn, lead)—three words that guide her behavior. It starts by accurately capturing what she hears. That means not jumping to conclusions and identifying all sides of an issue.

“Listening requires hearing the right things,” she says. “Right things should not be confused with hearing good things.”

Difficult People D

She learns by exploring ways to im­­prove employees’ attitudes and skills. To address poor performance, she says she examines “whether we have a ‘want to,’ ‘able to’ or ‘allowed to’ problem.”

If a skilled person is assigned the wrong job, that’s a “want to” problem and the solution is reassigning the right task to the right individual.

If an unskilled person is incapable of performing the job, that’s an “able to” problem, and the solution is providing training to boost the employee’s ability.  

In some cases, motivated individuals want to do the job and can do it well, but they’re not permitted to proceed due to organizational customs or rules. Fixing an “allowed to” problem means letting people excel and giving them autonomy to maximize their capabilities.

— Adapted from, “Listen, learn, lead,” Lori Fouche,