Jane Fraser on Leadership
May 02, 2016 12:00 PM
The Harvard Business School (HBS) Club of New York interviewed alumna and Citi Latin America CEO Jane Fraser on her successful career and affecting change in global companies for their "In the Spotlight" series. Jane, who is the recipient of this year's HBS Club of New York Leadership Award, discussed what it takes to lead on a global level, as well as her biggest challenges on the job. Read the Q&A with journalist and fellow alumna Chitra Nawbatt below.
You’ve been in financial services for most of your career. Now you lead 23 countries in Latin America for Citigroup. What does it take to lead globally?
I think it’s a combination of setting a context, courage and curiosity. So in terms of context-setting, you have to provide a vision for people, a sense of purpose, and setting the stage so they know what they should be doing and some of the decisions they should be making, how they should be innovating. Courage, because there are some tough calls, and at the end of the day, the buck stops with you and you’re the one that has to make them. And then in terms of curiosity, if you’re not asking lots of questions, and you’re not really engaging with people and you’re curious about the world, I think you miss a lot of different things.
Your career has spanned Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, now Citigroup – large, political organizations. So where does that courage come in when you’re trying to affect change?
I think the courage comes in just being brutally honest about who you are, what are some of the challenges you personally have faced, and being as authentic and real about yourself as possible, so that the people in the middle of the organization relate to you. Because, otherwise, if they’re not relating to you, that whole engine of the organization isn’t really trusting you and going in the direction that you’re trying to take the organization.
With that sense of purpose on a daily basis, how do those leadership principles really play out, manifest for you in a tangible way?
I think on a daily basis, it’s about making sure you’ve got time to talk to and listen to clients, our employees, listening to regulators today, the communities that we operate in, and, again, engaging with people down in the organization, as well as with different thought leaders and naysayers, keeping you honest.
What’s a big challenge or failure, personally or professionally, which stretched you and stretched your leadership principles?
I think for me, one of the biggest challenges has been my sense of doubt. I always feel unless I’m 120 percent qualified for a new opportunity or challenge, that I shouldn’t really be taking it on, and I’ve had a lot of mentors that have helped push me into taking them, and now I try to turn that doubt into a power of doubt, to make sure I’ve got a great team around that is more qualified than I am, to help tackle the opportunities and sometimes just to work harder and be that motivator to go the extra mile.
When you look back over your career, over your life, are there some lessons you wish that you had learned or embraced earlier?
I think one of them is around succeeding off your strengths. For a long time, I would spend most of my time waiting to hear the feedback on what I needed to fix. But if you look at the people who do really well, they’re focused on their strengths and what makes them happy and what their passions are, and I loved that at McKinsey, to really invest in and make distinctive things that I had more of a predilection towards. And then, again, getting a really good team of people who are much stronger in the areas I’m weaker in, and make sure they’re motivated.
What does this HBS Club of New York Leadership Award mean to you?
Oh, it means so much. The Harvard Business School Club of New York really comprises two things that are near and dear to my heart. One is Harvard Business School and one is New York City. I chose to come to the States from the UK because of the opportunities I see New York embodying, particularly for a female professional, and Harvard Business School opened up all of the opportunities in terms of curiosity, path forward, different things that I could do to grow as a leader, to grow as a business person, and also to grow as an individual. And so the two together is something I’m surprised, but incredibly proud of.
Source: The Harvard Business School Club of New York