The unlikely career motivator you probably haven’t considered

Screen shot 2014-01-22 at 8.12.35 AMby Balt Heldring (GSB ’14)

It is safe to say that most people want to be successful, both personally and professionally, but not everyone knows what path to take. This notion brings up one underlying question: What is the secret to success?

Passion, money and hard work are obvious first guesses. But there’s another — one that may not immediately stand out. Surprisingly, it’s fear.

Shedding light on it was Laura Rittenhouse, CEO of Rittenhouse Rankings, Inc., who spoke at last week’s Smart Woman Securities initiation ceremony for new members.

Early in her career, Rittenhouse worked for 10 years at Lehman Brothers on Wall Street with great success — so much so that she was being considered for a partner position. She loved the job. So the decision she made that year was all the more surprising.

“I was given the opportunity to work with some of the most powerful people on Wall Street, but I knew after 10 years that it was time for a change, so I quit,” Rittenhouse said. This was no easy decision. For Rittenhouse, quitting a high-paying job and leaving behind an impressive career, without a clue where to go or what to do, represented the epitome of fear.

With the help of a friend, however, she overcame that fear and set out on an incredible professional journey, during which she has yet to look back. “I knew it was possible that what was planned for me was more incredible than anything I was doing today,” she continued. “Getting over that fear is what allows us to gain confidence.”

book_Investing_Between_the_LinesToday, Rittenhouse is a trust and valuation expert and founder and CEO of Rittenhouse Rankings, which works with Fortune 500 companies to strengthen execution and financial performance. She is the author of critically acclaimed books Investing Between the Lines, endorsed by Warren Buffett, Buffett’s Bites and Do Business with People You Can Tru$t.

Rittenhouse strives to teach CEOs and managers to lead with candor. In other words, leaders must bring the elephant into the room. They need to shine a light on dark places. “Companies that have high candor outperform those that don’t, because leaders are stepping up and [addressing] problems,” Rittenhouse said. She believes that this practice can literally shift stakeholder perceptions about a company overnight.

It is unclear where Rittenhouse would be in her career had she not left Lehman Brothers — or where Lehman Brothers be had Rittenhouse not left the firm. What we do know is that Rittenhouse has made a name for herself by making fear her friend.

 

 

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