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The National Association of Female Executives (NAFE) Honors Sandra Peterson as its 2013 Woman of Achievement
The National Association of Female Executives (NAFE) Honors Sandra Peterson as its 2013 Woman of Achievement
Earlier today (December 10, 2013), Sandra Peterson, Johnson & Johnson Group Worldwide Chairman, accepted the NAFE Woman of Achievement award. Below are excerpts of her remarks about business leadership and advice for the next generation of female leaders.

Over the course of my career—and my life—I’ve experienced great success and daunting challenges. Often, you can’t have one without the other. No matter how public or personal, success is defined by facing down serious adversity and finding a way to blaze past problems, hardships or obstacles. And time and again, I have seen that to drive success and overcome challenges requires the same two attributes: Courage of conviction and the confidence to see it through. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t call on both to move things forward.

When you are consistently meeting your expectations, or working with others who come “close enough” to your expectation, that’s not being courageous. That’s just comfortable. When you are really flexing those muscles and acting with courageous conviction, you’ll make outstanding things happen. That means being the kind of leader who is not afraid to motivate and positively push the people you lead beyond the limits of what they thought they could do, to discover new personal bests for themselves and for the business.

It is when we become ‘un-comfortable’, when we look outside, embrace new ideas, listen harder and start to take highly calculated risks that we really begin to make things happen.

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I deeply believe that courage and confidence are innate. We all have these qualities in us. There is not a single woman in this room who would be here if she didn’t have both. So the goal is not to find them but to really develop both as assets - until they are instinctive, intuitive and completely reliable personal resources.

How do you access your natural courage and confidence—as well as strengthen and develop them as a valuable strategic business asset? I am about to give away how I work my courage, conviction and confidence muscles…Remember that old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.”

Prepare, prepare and then prepare.

  • Listen, prepare & surround yourself with exceptional people.
  • Pull the lens back on your business, on its challenges, bring the outside in and listen hard and objectively.
  • Whether you are head of a company, a team, a department, a division or any organization, you need to know your business and the issues at hand backwards and forwards, left and right, upside down and right side up.
  • You need to know your existing competition and your emerging competitors, and not just the most obvious or usual suspects. We live in a highly volatile business world, with new markets, segments and challengers emerging almost daily.
  • Know your numbers—not just income, revenue and market share, but also critical internal metrics on everything from product reliability, order-fill rates, NPD success rates, to diversity and inclusion, turnover, organizational health and mobility. And you need to be able to understand and deal with what those metrics reveal.
  • You need to have the insight to look past what is commonly measured, inside and outside of your company, to identify potential threats or new opportunities.

Leaders today must recognize that what’s always worked may very well not be what works in the future. Success today means growth, and delivering growth requires measured risk taking. It means doing new things in new ways. That takes courage. That takes confidence. I encourage you to build your courage, your confidence and to act with conviction and urgency.

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