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CEO Spotlight: Leadership Advice from Fidelity’s Abby Johnson

To round out National Women’s History Month, we turn the spotlight to Abby Johnson, president and CEO of one of the largest financial services companies in the world: Fidelity Investments.

Johnson replaced her father, Edward “Ned” Johnson III, and took over as CEO of Fidelity, which has assets under administration of $5.0 trillion, in 2014. Since then, she has quickly become one of the most highly praised CEOs among Fidelity employees, with an impressive approval rating of 92 percent, on Glassdoor.com. And with employees singing praises of great benefits and work-life balance, it’s not hard to see why.

Here are her thoughts and advice on today’s hot leadership topics in the professional world:

Unite, Don’t Direct

There’s a fine line between a leader and a manager. For one, a leader inspires employees to follow her lead and pursue her goals. A manager, on the other hand, leads by instruction and directives. This is why Johnson finds one more successful than the other:
In my experience, encouraging a team-oriented culture that is focused on uniting employees behind a shared sense of purpose and a common goal is more effective than offering directives. If you and your leadership team are on the same page with this approach, it is much easier to engage employees throughout the firm to meet those collective goals.  

Tailor the Experience

The first step in achieving gender equality in the workplace is understanding and supporting the fact that men and women work differently. Most importantly, Johnson encourages women to find opportunity in everything:

As employers, we need to accept that women and men operate differently in the workplace and set up development and training programs that are designed to target high potential employees in both groups. As women, we need to remind ourselves to have an ‘opt in’ attitude. Career downturns happen to everyone and we must remember to treat them as opportunities to change how we work or try something new. That is what shows our true mettle.

Invest in professional development

When it comes to increasing female executive leadership, Johnson reminds employers to create equal and ample opportunities for women to climb the corporate ladder:
Companies must invest in their female employees’ leadership and professional development. I’m very proud of the numerous development and mentoring programs that Fidelity has in place to help women excel at our firm and we’re seeing results that are validating this approach.

Ending gender pay inequality

Unfortunately, gender pay inequality still very much exists. But, as Johnson suggests, there are ways to combat this inequality both inside and outside of the workplace:
The issue is complex because there is still no single answer as to why. Fidelity’s interest in this issue goes far beyond our organization; we want to empower women’s financial futures, and that means putting programs, such as our THRIVE seminars, in place to help them understand their finances and investing.

Following in your father’s footsteps as the president and CEO of a multinational corporation is no easy feat. But Abby Johnson shows us that through hard work, the right attitude and a great team, it is possible.

What are some other pieces of advice for female leaders? Share in the comments below!