Published on November 20th, 2010 | by thevyne4
What Cosmo Magazine Won’t Teach You
In the last two weeks, New York City has been set ablaze by the appointment of Hearst Magazines Chairman, Cathie Black, to School Chancellor by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. New York residents as well as local and national education advocates cluster primarily around two major criticisms — Bloomberg’s lack of transparency into his selection process and Black’s glaring lack of credentials as required by the state. While Bloomberg’s thought process has left many tongues wagging, perhaps more intriguing is what is going on in Cathie Black’s mind as she navigates the very rough and shifting terrain beneath her well-heeled feet. We’ve not yet heard from her in the media, so we can only guess at this point at her thoughts on the situation–quite ironic given her post as chief of a communications behemoth.
As the female Chairman of Hearst Magazines, a company whose history and global reach are impressive, Cathie Black makes for a venerable symbol of successful leadership. She has led and managed an organization whose primary medium, the print magazine, faces peril at the hands of digital media on a daily basis–even with such titles as Cosmopolitan and O, the Oprah Magazine. She has presumably achieved success by making shrewd business decisions and using sound judgment. So why does she now find herself at the center of a social and political maelstrom of criticism? How did she get here and what does she do now?
You’ve seen this scenario before, with yourself or a woman you know. You’ve been in a post or career for a while and you hit a wall, professionally, intellectually or personally or simply decide that it’s time to move on. Thinking that it’s time for a change, but without putting much physical energy behind it, you’re suddenly headhunted for a prime opportunity or tapped on the shoulder to do ‘the next big thing.’ What usually goes through your head (right after you pop your collar)? “Perfect! An opportunity to do something different.” And before you know it, because of your brilliance, political savvy, and charm you find yourself facing a new and exciting professional opportunity. The temptation to accept can be huge and taking the leap into a high profile position may seem like a great decision, the rush of newness, the promise of acclaim. Pause. What step did you miss? At what point did you clearly define what should be next for you? What are your personal/professional objectives for your next experience? Have you accomplished all you intended in your current position? Before you sign on the dotted line and upgrade your handbag, take a minute to put pen to paper and strategize.
Three of the most critical components of exemplary leadership are self-awareness, judgment and preparation. Cathie Black’s current quandary indicates that at minimum she lacked adequate preparation to articulate her unique qualifications for the role of School Chancellor. Prior to accepting the post, did she ask herself the right questions? “Have I taken the time to outline what I am looking for and how this opportunity supports that?” “Do I fundamentally know how to do the job and influence perception about my ability to do the job?” “Do I know what to expect in the first 5, 30, 90 days?”
As gifted and passionate women we are often invited to address major challenges and lead initiatives. It is flattering, and often justified, given our previous accomplishments. However, we have to manage our careers and safeguard our reputations, thinking critically about every potential opportunity. Clarity of purpose and an ability to articulate our unique qualifications only support our strategic thinking. Without this level of reflection, we may find ourselves second-guessing our decisions, scrambling for support and calling on the endorsements of the ‘Oprah’ in our own network to vouch for our ability – something we should be able to articulate freely and with conviction, instead of being shell-shocked into silence.
What happens with Cathie Black is yet to be seen, but in the interim it appears she has something more immediate to address than the broken New York City public school system–her own perceived ‘achievement gap’.