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5 Women on Being a Boss

January 27, 2017 | Filed in: Your Career

At MM, we spend a lot of time talking to women about their careers, and many of those women are bosses—of their own businesses, growing startups, large teams, and more. Here, five of them talk about authority, leadership, and finding their managerial style. What kind of boss do you want to be?

Katherine Ryder, Founder and CEO of Maven

Katherine wears the Cady top and the Harlem skirt.

Katherine wears the Cady top and the Harlem skirt.

“My dad taught me that your job as a CEO is to motivate and instruct in a productive way. That’s really hard, and some of my early instincts were not right. If you set a goal of getting 100 meetings for sales opportunities and you only get 98, what do you do? The answer is, cheer them on, and say, ‘Great job, almost 100! Let’s get 110 next time.’ I would say to myself, ‘God, that sucks, I should have gotten to 100.’ But that’s not a constructive way to manage or lead.”

Kathryn Minshew, Founder and CEO of The Muse

Kathryn wears the Walters top and the Evers trouser.

Kathryn wears the Walters top and the Evers trouser.

“As a boss, I try to be hands-off. My ideal structure is like a fleet of ships, each with its own commander—like the USS Sales or the USS Marketing. My job is to make sure that the ships are stocked, that the air cover is appropriate, and that there’s plenty of fuel in the tanks, but ultimately I want the commanders to run their own ships. Those who report to me directly would probably say I’m pretty laid-back, and I generally give them a lot of latitude; but if I start to suspect that something might go off the rails, I get very involved until it’s back on track and I feel that my help isn’t needed… My aspiration is for our employees to look back and say, ‘That was one of the best companies I ever worked for.’ And that comes from the way you treat people, the organizations you set up, and the modes of behavior and communication that are acceptable versus unacceptable. I try to lead by example in terms of how I want The Muse to grow as an organization.”

Sallie Krawcheck, Co-founder and CEO of Ellevest

Sallie wears the Lydia dress while being interviewed by our CEO, Sarah.

Sallie wears the Lydia dress while being interviewed by our CEO, Sarah.

“My leadership style is engaged. Collaborative. A little manic. Passionate. I try to pull from everybody, even the introverts. I try to add value where I have experience and knowledge, and I try to let people really run, particularly in areas I don’t really know. We all bring something to the party.

One important management technique is quiet. In a one-on-one, you’ll get a couple of sentences, and then, if you sit and wait, that person will then go deeper and you’ll learn more and more. You can really get to the crux of some issues if you don’t allow the conversation to stop after the headline. Silence is underrated. We hate silence, particularly as women. My daughter and I, we do jigsaw puzzles together. It enables us to spend time together in silence. What you’ll find is that after 15 minutes, something comes up that she couldn’t have brought up in minute one. It  helped me learn that if you can allow the silence to be, things will come up that otherwise wouldn’t.”

Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan of GoFugYourself

Heather and Jessica with their novel.

Heather and Jessica with their novel.

Heather: “The buck stops with you. If someone doesn’t like your policies, you can’t point to someone higher up and just shrug and be like, ‘Sorry, not my call.’ It is our call. And we have to be able to explain and defend the choices we make. But the trick is remaining fluid about those policies. Check yourself periodically.”

Jessica:It’s also taught me to keep an open mind about opportunities. When you’re overloaded with work, it’s easy to think, ‘I can’t do that.’ And maybe you can’t—you can’t do everything or your head will explode—but you should think about whether you’re saying ‘no’ to something because you really don’t want to do it, or you’re too busy, or you’re just scared. Sometimes if you’re scared, you should do it anyway.”

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Charlotte Cowles is a New York-based writer​ ​and editor.​ ​Her work has been published in New York Magazine,​ Harper's Bazaar,​ and Art in America. She'd always rather be at book club. Read more of Charlotte's posts.

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