Memos From The CEOs

Marked urgent: Richard Parsons, Ann Fudge and Ken Chenault offer powerful lessons in leadership.

against them, that is when we get confused.

So be real. Be you, not what you think you should be to fit into someone else’s definition of what you should be. Once you start moving away from being who you are at your core, your ability to remain truly authentic, to have real credibility, will slowly and very insidiously diminish. And one day you’ll wonder what has happened to you — the real you.

I truly believe that most successful people — and let me clearly state that I don’t define success as monetary success or celebrity, but rather as full realization of life’s potential — most truly successful people are authentic, they are credible.

RICHARD D. PARSONS, CEO, TIME WARNER
SUBJECT: DON’T LET RACISM DISTRACT YOU FROM YOUR GOALS
Eighty percent of what makes people successful is believing in yourself. A lot of people don’t try because they’re afraid to fail. Most people would rather follow than lead because it’s safer. That way, if it fails, they can say, "It’s not my fault. Wasn’t my idea." But if you don’t try, you can’t succeed. I will try almost anything of interest or that I think I want to do or need to do. If it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, hey, I tried.

The reality of the way I have experienced my life is that rave has not been an issue, period. Full stop. Having said that—I used to tell minority law students when they’d come into the workplace—racism does exist. It’s never particularly bitten me in the ass, but I know it’s out there. Blacks in the workplace are cut less slack, there’s less tolerance for failure, particularly up front. If a white person muffs his first big assignment at a law firm—and I’ve seen this happen—the natural tendency of the partnership is to say, “Alright, well he wiffed the first time, but he’s a good man or she’s a good woman, he or she went to the right law school. So give him or her another chance.” When a black person wiffs, they don’t say it, but you can see it in their eyes. It’s like, “I knew they couldn’t carry the load anyway.” Subtle, but real.

So, it’s a reality. But it’s kind of like being short or tall or heavy or thin. It’s just one of those things that you manage. And the management of that issue for me has never been particularly
challenging.

I do think there’s something to the notion of self-fulfilling prophecy. People who are quick to assume that anything negative that happens, or any different form of treatment, is racially motivated, are probably creating more barriers for themselves than they need to. Maybe some [motives] are [racist], but to assume that all of them are, creates a sense of your own reality that will take you down a bad path.

I’ve had people say things to me that are totally inappropriate, but if you just laugh

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