Lessons from the 13th Most Wealthy Woman

Forbes just released its list of the 400 richest Americans and it took until number 92 on the list to find a woman who is known primarily as an executive not an heiress. Meet Marilyn Carlson Nelson.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson was the CEO and now chairs the board of hotel, travel and restaurant company Carlson Inc. Her father, Curt  founded the company in the 1930s. Marilyn served as CEO until 2008 and will step down from her post as chairman next year. She is also on the board of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, whose member companies account for more than 40% of corporate giving in the US, and she teaches corporate responsibility to MBA students at the University of Minnesota. She has been named one of "America's Best Leaders" by U.S. News and World Report.

Marilyn has important lessons to teach women about leadership and about strategic relationships. In her book, How We Lead Matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership, she writes:
"I am convinced that it would not have mattered where my life work might have taken me. In the end, I would arrive at the same conclusion: It is all about relationships."
She writes this as she reflects on her departure as CEO of Carlson and after expressing gratitude to the key groups in her strategic network:
  • Her executive team who taught her the "boundless power of 'we'."
  • Employees who care for one another and the customers.
  • Suppliers who enable the company to serve.
  • Customers and partners for their loyalty and trust in the company.
What lesson can you learn from her?
I find 3.
  1. Encountering people with gratitude and the assumption of positive intent.
  2. It's essential to have a strong internal AND external network.
  3. And it's important to develop your strategic relationships in the context of your organization and moving it forward.
If you take her lessons to heart, you might not make it to Forbes list of the richest Americans, but you'll help move your organization forward, have a rewarding career and make a difference in the lives of those you encounter.

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono, CEO and Founder Leading Women
Author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring. Underway is her new book, Network! What corporate women need to know about strategic relationships and success
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