What It Takes to Lead a Company, with Amanda Mesler

Business executive Amanda Mesler draws upon her 26 years of leadership experience to explain what it takes to be a CEO: vision, execution, backbone, and a strong support system.

Amanda Mesler: I’ve actually had the luxury of working for many, many great bosses, who have helped me breed who I am as a leader.

But I certainly had one individual in particular, there was a very poor boss and he was very, very visionary really. He was the CEO of a very large company. Very visionary, really wanted to take the company places and he had executives around him who just wanted to pull the company down.

And at the end of the day you can be visionary, but you’ve got to follow through when you’ve got to execute. And this particular executive did not execute and he did not follow through and he really, in my words, he had no backbone to really pull the company forward. Then the employees and shareholders suffered because of that.

So the biggest thing is that you got to be visionary, you got to follow up with the execution and you got to have a backbone. This is not an easy job being a CEO, but you’ve got to carry it through.

Yes, you know it’s very interesting because I grew up actually working for GE. I’m very young and I had responsibility for Asia. So a woman selling to the Japanese in my twenty’s. So you can imagine all of the kinds of challenges, as well as just fantastic memories I had at that time.

But I never thought of myself as different in the workplace. But over the year, especially as I coach other women coming into the workforce, there’s absolutely differences in how you are treated. You know it’s true when they say you’re a good leader, a man is tough, and a woman is a name that we won’t mention.

I am a very tough, demanding individual, demanding, no different than my colleagues that are successful that are men. But I’ve heard the names, I’ve heard, you know how you supposed to be quiet in this way or that. Absolutely, labels come with a very strong successful female that you don’t get in a man’s world.

So, all you have to do, do your job, you know. Affect your shareholders, employees, clients positively and that’s all that you can do.

Whether you’re a man or a woman quite frankly you’ve got to go for it. And you really got to learn put in what it takes in order to be successful across any field, especially the business field. But I don’t think, yet, women believe that they can go all the way to the top. There are very few role models at the CEO level, and even internationally even less role models. So you just have to, you have to get good mentors, you have to really plug in to the networks. I myself, never plug in to the women’s networks or anything. I’m now quite involved with that because I do believe in it and I think it’s one way to help individuals get mentored and be able to grasp all the way to the top if that’s what they want.

I have three girls and a fantastic husband and it is quite a challenge to balance at all. I balance or I spend as much effort balancing personal work life than I do, being a CEO, that’s how challenging it is.

But I absolutely have a wonderful support system, couldn’t do any of these without my husband, he’s just my rock, my best friend.

My children are growing up understanding what the world is, what business is, so I’ve including them in on the things that I do. We went to France to visit a client so they got to go on vacation and learn the French culture and how things work over there. So, include them; include my family in as much as I can with work and then also just incredible support system from my husband.

Business executive Amanda Mesler draws upon her 26 years of leadership experience to explain what it takes to be a CEO: vision, execution, backbone, and a strong support system. She also touches on the differences between the ways women executives are treated compared to men. It's important, says Mesler, for powerful women to coach the next generation of women leaders.


This is the second video in a series on developing women leaders presented in partnership with PwC. Watch Claire Shipman and "The Confidence Code" co-author Katty Kay in a live webcast presented by PwC on February 27th. Register here for the webcast, and follow the conversation on Twitter: #PwCAspire. Big Think has partnered with PwC to promote this event, and will feature videos and other content related to it throughout the month.

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