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creativity

Wonder: Leaders, you must lead

We are now in the societal version of the financial crisis that reared its head in 2008. I was working at American Express in 2008 and with a front row seat to the recession, the picture was bleak. And here’s what CEO Ken Chenault and his senior staff did: they talked to us, and kept talking to us. All the time. Every week. They told us what they were afraid of. They told us what kept them up at night. They shared data with us. They didn’t give up. They urged us to do whatever we could with whatever we had from wherever we were in the company. And so I did. I’m going to write him a letter and thank him for his example that I carry to this day.

I realize that my expectations of leadership are very high, and I have no intention of lowering them. I didn’t always agree with Ken’s decisions while I was at Amex (and sometimes I adamantly and publicly disagreed), but I certainly always respected him. I always believed he was trying to do the right thing given extenuating and complex circumstances. I know that no matter how hard I was working, he was working harder.

My boss at Toys R Us, Bob G., was the same way. He was always invested in who I was as a human being first, and as an employee second. And he would often tell me that in addition to showing it through his world-class mentoring and advice.

I recognize that I have been tremendously fortunate to have had many great leaders during my career. (Some god-awful ones, too, but we’ll save that for another post.) CEOs, don’t throw away an opportunity to exercise leadership and to inspire your people, especially during these trying and difficult times. That’s when your people need leaders the most—not when the sailing is smooth but when the water is choppy and the direction unclear. Your people need you. Don’t fail them.

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About Christa Avampato

I make a living in business and I make a life as a writer, artist, and yogi. I use my business skills to support passion projects that build a better world. My first novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, will be published in the Fall of 2017 by Thumbkin Prints, a children's and YA imprint of Possibilities Publishing Co. My creative career has stretched across Capitol Hill, Broadway theatre, education, nonprofit fundraising, health and wellness, and Fortune 500 companies in retail, media, and financial services. In every experience, I have used my sense of and respect for elegant design to develop meaningful products, services, program, and events to help people live happier, healthier lives. A recovering multi-tasker, I am a proud alum of UPenn (BA) and the Darden School at UVA (MBA). When not in front of my Mac, I’m on my yoga mat, walking my rescue dog, Phineas, traveling with a purpose, or practicing the high-art of people watching. I split my time between New York City and Washington, D.C. Follow my adventures on Twitter at https://twitter.com/christanyc and Instagram at https://instagram.com/christarosenyc.

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