Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Embracing Contradictions

Peter Grauer is head of a $7 billion business. He is the CEO of Bloomberg, the global financial media and data company, and attributes scoring his job to his daughter’s love of riding horses. Mind you, it helped that he was qualified. Peter became friends with the company’s founder, Michael Bloomberg, back in 1989. The pair chatted about life while their daughters took horseback riding lessons. Bloomberg went on to become Mayor of New York and turned to Grauer to replace him as the head of his company.

The point being, of course, you never know when or where you will meet the contact that changes your life. Grauer was retelling this story at this year’s Wharton Leadership Conference. Like myself, he is a committed ‘And/And’ practitioner and not afraid to preach it.

Grauer talks about embracing our personal contradictions. The best leaders are those that “exemplify a line from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself": "Do I contradict myself? ... I am large, I contain multitudes." Amen. You can be a big thinker and details oriented. You can drive the action and stand back and reflect. There is no either/or. It’s And/And.

It’s a waste of time trying to confine leadership to one or two attributes. It’s about what you can do, not what you can’t. Where Grauer struck another chord with me was on his reflection that intimacy is vital. It is important to relate to people on a human level. Look in their eyes while shaking their hands. Learn something about them. These are lessons he has learned over time and I join him when he says: “I believe that a career is a long reflection on self-improvement."

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