Tackling myths head-on about what leadership looks like, Kim Powell revealed that CEOs are more than the charismatic, larger-than-life figures most people expect.
Powell was featured as the keynote speaker for the sixth annual Women’s Leadership Colloquium on Friday, March 15, at Brenau University’s John S. Burd Center for Performing Arts.
As a co-author of “The CEO Next Door,” Powell shared with the audience some of the research findings published in the book.
After conducting interviews with 100 different CEOs, she was able to draw conclusions about leadership role misconceptions and similarities in their catapults toward success.
“To summarize the myths, pedigree is overrated, you don’t have to be an extrovert, find the situations that fit your strengths, welcome the blow-ups and female leaders rock,” she said.
Azayla Rodriguez, a student at Brenau, said one of the biggest takeaways she received from the talk involved a quote from a CEO stating, “I hired your resume, but what I got was you.”
Powell stressed the fact that pedigree and a stellar resume don’t necessarily equate to a successful leader.
“For me, trying to get a job and internships, I always think they’re going to see my resume, and not see me for who I really am and what I can really do,” Rodriguez said. “What I really took away from that is to still have a good resume, but show people that I’m better than my resume.”
Powell said her research also debunked the myth that female CEOs succeed at a different rate than men.
She said while women deploy different working styles than men, gender has no impact on performance.
“The sobering reality though is in our work, if you hold things like talent and experience constant between male and female, women are 30 percent less likely to be hired for a role,” Powell said.
She discovered that the three actions that made a significant difference for women leaders entailed giving credit out liberally to women who are succeeding, show a lot of gratitude and inform male allies in how they can help along the way, so women can reach their full potential.
“I personally think it’s so critically important in today’s day and age to find your own picture of what success looks like personally for you,” she said.
Powell encouraged the room not to let society’s definition of what success looks like influence their perceptions, otherwise their leadership journey could prove a painful one.
Out of all the CEOs she interviewed, she said 97 percent had a catapult in their careers that involved taking a risk.
Barbara Wilson and Redenna Poole, who both work at Brenau, said they gained new insight into their careers both with Powell’s myth-busting and risk-taking recommendations.
“I like that she invites us to collaborate with our colleagues. I thought that was a good point because that’s what we do here at Brenau,” Poole said.