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Face fears with courage, Blythe McGarvie tells Forum attendees

Wednesday, August 1, 2012  
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To be an effective leader, women must "face facts and fears,” Blythe McGarvie, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, told Network of Executive Women members at the NEW Executive Leaders Forum, Aug. 1, 2012 in Los Angeles.

Accomplished leaders courageously face their fears and take action, McGarvie told more than 250 cpg/retail industry executives in her opening address, "Take on the World: Building Your Courage Quotient.”

The former chief financial officer for BIC told the crowd of mostly women there are four types of leaders: Conventional leaders who are pleasant, but don’t make a difference; compliant leaders who do not participate with passion; challengers who are willing to question but are often ignored; and courageous leaders, who are not afraid to stand out and speak up.

The first step toward building courage and taking action, McGarvie said, is reading. "Examine how others have done it,” she advised. "It’s that simple. John F. Kennedy was always reading a book, and was notorious for stealing magazines.”

McGarvie recommended two books: Man’s Search for Meaning, a story of survival in Auschwitz by Victor Frankel, and Drive by Daniel Pink, which explores autonomy, purpose and mastery.

Having and working toward a dream is important, too. Blythe related how she once imagined a castle in the sky in Italy or France and read about other women who had the dream life she imagined. When she ended up working in Paris, her husband got a job in Buffalo, N.Y. "I’ll come visit you,” she negotiated.

When acting on her fears, Blythe adheres to four principles: Be fair, be firm, be friendly and be frank. For example, when her Paris job didn’t turn out to be the growth opportunity she expected and presented a host of problems, she couldn’t sugarcoat the circumstances. She was frank about cutting dividends in half – a necessary measure.

Wrapping up her rousing address, Blythe quoted Winston Churchill. "Courage is standing up and speaking. Courage is also sitting down and listening.”

Blythe McGarvie, formerly CFO of BIC, advised NEW Executive Leaders
Forum attendees to face their fears with courage.

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