Linda Johnson Rice is the CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, the former publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. This week, Linda told us that she didn’t make it to the top by going it alone. The secret to her success? Listening to her team. Because even CEOs need to ask for advice.
Carly: [When you're] in a leadership position, and I think this is something that Danielle and I have struggled with, is how do you carve out in work the safe space for yourself as the leader to be able to talk out loud. Because, inevitably, given your position, people pay attention to what you say…. What’s your advice for leaders or aspiring leaders listening on how to carve out that safe space to think out loud?
Linda: Be willing, first of all, to be a little bit vulnerable. You have to be willing to be a little bit vulnerable. And to have ideas that maybe everybody isn't going to agree with…. None of us are perfect. None of us are. I don't care who we think we are. I don't care how smart you are, you're not perfect. You're not perfect. And a lot of times, there is somebody that you need to listen to that might have a better idea.
Linda: You know, in 2016, I made a very gut-wrenching decision to sell Ebony and Jet. And let me tell you, this is what our foundation, our company was built on. And so this is all I've known. But I realized it was such a drain on our other piece of business, which was Fashion Fair Cosmetics, and it was a drain on the company. And there was no way to get around this. There was no way to get around it. And let me tell you, I was in probably a dark place for quite a long time. Because it's an agonizing thing.
And here's the other issue that does happen in family businesses, I think, is that you hang on and hang on and hang on because you think you can make it. And you think you can make it. And really, all the signs are telling you that the business is not there. The business is no longer what it was. And so I made the decision to sell it.
Carly: In those moments, whether it was in the boardroom or even just in the office, literally in that moment [where you feel imposter syndrome], what do you do?
Linda: Something has to click in your mind that says, "Okay, I got this." You just have to keep saying "I got this." And you have to move forward. The worst thing is to sit there and second-guess yourself…. You'll lose your mind. And everyone will see you losing your mind. And that's not good. That’s not where you want to be. So you really have to almost gather yourself quickly and just say, "You know what? All right, I got this. I'm gonna go forward here.”
Skimm'd by Alex Carr and Peter Bonaventure
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“I think when you have a crisis... it is kind of a unique opportunity to really think about what matters to the core of [a] business and rethink it.”
"Empathy is everything."
"The beginning was really hard. I decided to go into therapy at that point because it was really intense."