Leading Blog






11.22.06

Pamela Thomas-Graham: A Woman For All Seasons

Pamela Thomas Graham

IN a recent column by Harvey Mackay, author of Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty, he shared his impressions of a New York Sun article written by Pranay Gupte. The article featured Pamela Thomas-Graham, the new head of Liz Claiborne. MacKay writes, “It fascinated me. I wondered how one woman could accomplish so many things and do all of them so well.” Here are some excerpts from that column:

There was a big clue. Throughout the article, Ms. Thomas-Graham praised her parents and their Presbyterian church for the values they instilled in her. "I was brought up to challenge myself, to try to be successful on my own terms. I was brought up to be focused. So I see myself as more fully engaged than ever before," Ms. Thomas-Graham responded when asked why she accepted the burden of revitalizing the flagship Liz Claiborne brand as well as nine others. The brands she oversees bring in annual revenues just shy of $1 billion.

Asked how she managed to transform CNBC.com [her last job] into one of the top ten financial Web sites in 18 months, she said, "I do not use brute force in my management style. I use my strategic abilities. I work hard to create a team environment. It’s extremely important for a leader to empower others in driving the success of the organization. I emphasize how essential it is to be nimble and always resourceful."

Her personality and conversational abilities helped her every step of the way. "Our parents expected us to know what was going on in the world," she said of herself and her older brother, who is the assistant dean of the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minneapolis. "My mother always emphasized that we should be able to hold a conversation on any topic for at least five minutes. This reinforced the value of knowledge and intellectual curiosity in us."

This ability is extolled as one of the essential qualities everyone must develop by no less a prestigious organization than Toastmasters. To succeed in life you generally have to be well rounded and well informed. You also must convert negatives to positives.

When I finally caught up to Thomas-Graham, she told me that some of her best advice is, "Don't get discouraged, and don't let other people define your potential. In high school, when I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to apply to Harvard, she said that was an unrealistic expectation. My parents and others encouraged me to apply anyway, and I became the first person from my high school to ever attend Harvard. So hold onto your dreams, even when others try to diminish them. And think big!"

Mackay’s Moral: You never know when a little word or something you may do may open up the windows of a mind that seeks the light.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:03 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Leaders



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