Who better to speak at HP’s ReInvent conference than journalist, entrepreneur and media mogul Tina Brown, a master at both self-reinvention and corporate reinvention? At a session hosted by Kim Rivera, the chief legal officer of HP, Brown shared lessons she has learned over her many years of professional experience, and in doing so, shared some key insights to becoming a successful leader.
I have personally admired and followed Tina Brown for so long that it feels awkward for me to even try to describe her contributions to those that may not know of her. She is a sort of Renaissance woman, successfully wearing many hats in her professional career. She is a journalist, a storyteller, an editor, a publisher, an author, and very clearly a business leader. She has been on the boards of non-profits, she has reinvented multiple publications, and is the founder of Women in the World Summit and Tina Brown Live Media. She is a trailblazer for women and offers an example to everyone — both male and female — of a passionate and persistent leader.
Tina Brown is a tidal wave when it comes to reinvention, and that force is one of the keys to her being such a successful leader. Brown took over Vanity Fair in 1984 as editor-in-chief, and at the time, the magazine was not expected to last through the end of the year. Today, it is one of the fastest growing publications in the country. How did that shift happen? It came from the brutal and necessary changes that Brown implemented.
Tying together the theme of HP ReInvent with her appearance, Brown highlighted passion as the first trait needed when seeking reinvention. She stepped into her role at Vanity Fair with a vision and the needed persistence to make that vision a reality. That reality did not come without a decent amount of backlash, but her passion made it possible to bring change despite the resistance. For your passion to take root, others need to share that passion. Brown championed her vision, and by doing that, she communicated and instilled her passion in those around her.
One of the most important steps in professional reinvention, Brown said, is to build a team that shares the same goals and has the same passion for those goals. She explained that new visions always have some resistance, and part of being a leader is deciding when resistance is too much. Some resistance is good; find those who have a passion for something and find a way to mold that passion to fit your vision. Where there is no passion and only bitter resentment, cuts are necessary. That can make a leader the villain, but Brown shared that in the long run, it will build a more cohesive team, and that team is going to be essential to a successful reinvention.
Another crucial step to leadership, according to Brown, is the importance of evaluating the potential (and likely) consequences that actions and changes will have before making them. Brown pointed out that this is one of the great strengths of female leaders — in her experience, women have a more natural tendency to see where things can and may go wrong, and this allows them to prepare for the consequences. Leadership will mean stepping on toes, but good leadership has a plan for what to do when that happens.
Championship: The key to it all
The common thread in Brown’s leadership advice? Creating a community of passion, building a team, learning from each other, and bringing together diverse perspectives: they all share the common theme of championing one another. Brown said that she could not be where she is today had she not been empowered by others, and her success has allowed her to empower others still. She built a community at Vanity Fair that shared her passion, and then she took that and did the same at the New Yorker. She has worked with some of the best in the journalism world. She admits that some of the best artists are the hardest to work with, but she took the time to nurture them and champion them, and in doing that, created a path of success.
Brown offers an example of persistent leadership, and despite adversity and opposition, she has paved a notable path of reinvention and success — not just for herself, but for those who have been lead and influenced by her as well. Count me as one of the many!