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CEO who recovered from a workplace scandal offers career advice for young workers

In 2017, Anne-Marie Slaughter, executive director of the New America think tank, faced public scrutiny after the firing of Barry Lynn and 10 of his colleagues. Lin claimed he was fired for criticizing Google and pushing for stronger antitrust enforcement. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, was one of the biggest funders of New America.

In the quiet lanes of progressive think tanks in Washington, this claim is like a betrayal, a betrayal of the core values ​​of independent research, analysis, and policy formulation. Washington Post He wrote in his review of Slaughter’s book Renewal: From Crisis to Transformation in Our Lives, Work, and Politics. which recounts her experience and the lessons she learned in dealing with public and private controversy.

In the book, Slaughter wrote, “the accusation was neither accurate nor just, either in relation to New America or to the financier.” Lane denies claims, “but it has been successfully calculated to create a media storm and put the new America and my leadership in the worst possible light.”

renewal It’s also a deep dive into how Slaughter’s leadership style has evolved in the aftermath, and how owning up to its slips and shortcomings is vital moving forward. While most people will not encounter such a public reckoning, Slaughter’s book offers advice that can be applied to anyone’s career.

Learn to share power

During her decades-long career, she served as Chief of Policy Planning in the US State Department under President Obama. President of the American Society of International Law; Dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs; She has also written several books. Slaughter had two very specific reasons why she wanted to write renewal, Often an unflattering account of that moment in the history of the new America.

“The first is that desire, as soon as I come to the crisis, to learn from it, and see if there are lessons I can offer to others,” she said. luck On Wednesday, adding that she wanted enough distance from the events to be able to tell the story honestly.

“I was [also] Think of the distances between personal and national renewal. “When I had the opportunity to write a short book on this topic, I wanted to try to put these topics together.”

One of the most important things to do in Slaughter: spreading strength across the team won’t necessarily protect against bad decision making, but it will certainly reduce the odds of disaster.

“A lot of the lessons I learned relate to power sharing and recognition, which should seem obvious,” she said, adding that women, in particular, have been socialized to believe that being the public face of a company is a traditional hallmark of leadership.

Slaughter argued that an individual should not seek to become synonymous with the company he founded or led. This creates a risky perception in the public; As with Mark Zuckerberg at Meta or Elon Musk at Tesla. When people associate an infallible individual with a billion dollar company, it doesn’t take much to lose trust.

Slaughter hopes that when people think of the new America, they think not only of her, but of many of her astute colleagues, including Cecilia Muñoz, one of her top advisers, Kevin Curry, vice president for education policy and knowledge management, or Peter Bergen. Vice President for Global Studies and Fellows.

“Strength is not an infinite good,” she said. “When it’s shared, the results are great.” It still recognizes that organizations cannot function without some hierarchy.

“The unanimous government is a nightmare,” she said. “But if you have the right team, sharing power among a group of people, even if there is a formal hierarchy, is an effective way of leadership.”

Plus, she added, “Sharing responsibility makes driving more enjoyable.”

Owning Your Mistakes – Public

Another one of Slaughter’s new dogmas: Driving means saying you’re sorry.

“I really believe you can be stronger, better, and more confident in owning your own mistakes,” she said.

She said that everyone should openly face their flaws and shortcomings. Plus, she added, she’s at a point in her career where she’s safe enough that if the book skews the public’s view of her, “so be it.”

As for non-CEOs making a serious mistake on their part, Slaughter recommends a different approach.

“I wouldn’t tell them all to write an email to the whole organization reading their mistakes,” she said with a laugh, noting her 2017 move. themselves. It’s so tempting to hide the truth, to think, “Well, I wasn’t really responsible” or “someone else did something.”

Run towards criticism

To that end, the best advice Slaughter said she received came from David Bradley, CEO of Atlantic Media, who told her to steer clear of criticism.

“Think of a performance review where you try to figure out how to tell someone they don’t want to hear how they can improve. If they go with the attitude they are going to take to criticism, and they grow up and learn, that really flips it.”

Instead of waiting for board members to tell Slaughter what I did wrong in the wake of the Google fallout, I called them and asked for their opinions. “It wasn’t easy,” she said, “but it allowed me to take charge.” “To do that, you have to be prepared to hear it.”

Slaughter said this approach to criticism can be beneficial for managers who sometimes move in complex workplaces between generations.

“An old truth about leaders who get too powerful: They create echo chambers,” she said. “It is absolutely essential, now more than ever, given the generational differences in the workforce. You have to be able to hear the unpleasant facts about people’s experiences across the organization – especially when they are very different from what I experienced.”

grace exercise

Generational differences are a particular focus of Slaughter, who says millennials face a very different world than her generation did.

“If I want to recruit and keep these people — and I do — I have to really try to hear what they are facing,” she said. “I don’t have to do everything they say, but I have to give them a real chance to hear from me.”

Another key to bridging the intergenerational rift: the practice of grace. “We’re in a time when it’s easy to offend, really unintentionally, in so many ways,” she said. “It’s hard for young people to understand how social norms have changed so dramatically.”

She quotes Loretta Ross, activist professor of women’s and gender studies at Smith College, who advocates “calling” rather than “praying.”

“When someone makes a mistake, and it bothers you, instead of you telling it, take it as an opportunity for a teachable moment,” Slaughter said. There are ways to turn that into ‘Cool, I didn’t realize you heard it that way. “I think of it as an exercise in grace.”

This story originally appeared on Fortune.com

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