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Christine Lagarde, IMF and ex-BigLaw chief, talks about women and leadership

Posted Jul 11, 2014 12:04 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Christine Lagarde. Frederic Legrand
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A high-profile female attorney who has achieved unusual success in major law firm and governmental leadership roles never had a career plan.

Yet this may not have been a mistake, Christine Lagarde tells the Washington Post (reg req.), because career opportunities tend to arise from circumstances rather than planning.

That may be especially true for women, the International Monetary Fund chief and former Baker & McKenzie executive committee chair suggests in a lengthy Q-and-A, because "I have a theory that women are generally given space and appointed to jobs when the situation is tough. I’ve observed that in many instances. In times of crisis, women eventually are called upon to sort out the mess, face the difficult issues and be completely focused on restoring the situation."

Known as a charismatic leader who can command a room, Lagarde also offers a number of other insights about women and leadership during the wide-ranging interview. As Hilary Clinton recently suggested in a recent address to IMF staff, one needs to be confident not only about her identity but her body and weight, Lagarde says. Then, the next step "is about being honest and telling the truth, not covering up and pretending you are somebody that you are not deep down inside."

Being a leader is an ongoing opportunity for personal growth, Lagarde tells the newspaper. "I learned that you can constantly improve, and that you should not be shy about your views, and about the direction that you believe is right." At the same time, though, "it’s a constant process to learn how much you should step in after having listened, and how much the team you work with can exceed your expectations."

For more about LaGarde's views and background, which includes losing her father and helping to support her family at a young age, read the full Washington Post (reg. req.) article.

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