Want to be a better leader?

CEOs, entrepreneurs and businesswomen from around the world converged on Deauville last weekend to talk leadership - and the issues that really matter to working women

Want to get to the top at work? Then an ability to recruit the right staff and adapt to new technology are two of the most important qualities you’ll need.

That’s according to ex-Bank of America exec Sallie Krawcheck and former White House advisors, who gave advice on being a better female leader at the Women’s Forum in France last weekend.

But leadership was just one of the topics discussed at the Deauville forum, which also pulled in contributions from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, International Herald Tribune editor Alison Smale and a host of entrepreneurs from around the world.

Novel ways to tackle domestic violence and the ethics of rapidly changing health technology (like IVF) were just some of the other diverse issues discussed at the event, which Marie Claire attended.

But it was away from the formal sessions that many of the most heated debates got underway. Near the coffee bar, at dinner and in smaller workshops, the issue of DSK’s failed prosecution, for example, was discussed in tightly knit groups again and again. It was there, too, that women got down to the other important task of the forum – networking.

‘It’s such a great event,’ said Antony Jenkins, CEO of Barclays global retail banking group, which helped support and sponsor the event. ‘Firstly to see all these incredibly talented high energy women together – and also [because] the issues were talked about in a really intense, compressed way with all different perspectives.

‘We wanted to support an organisation like this because we believe passionately in diversity, as we know that diverse teams get better results. About a third of the senior management of the [Barclaycard and UK retail bank] businesses are female. We have also established a target of having 25 per cent of our board being female by 2015.’

What do women need to know on their way to the top?

That was the question posed to a panel of influential women, including Diana Farrell, McKinsey & Company director (and former Deputy Assistant to the President on Economic Policy at the White House) and Sallie Krawcheck, former President, Global Wealth and Investment, Bank of America.

Here’s what they believe prospective women leaders need to know:

1.    Trust but verify. ‘Empower your employees and give them some free reign – but monitor their performance regularly’

2.  Realise you can’t be perfect every day. ‘Pace yourself. Be targeted with your energy’

3.  Learn resilience. ‘Every woman with an interesting – or long – has ups and downs. Get used to it.’

4.  Give feedback early and often. ‘Praise success but also let people know when they’ve made mistakes.’

5.   Recruit well. ‘In interviews, ask candidates about failures and mistakes (and how they recovered from them) – not just successes.’

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