It’s great to be back in Laguna Niguel meeting friends old and new this week for Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit, which brings together some of the most remarkable women in business, government, the arts, and beyond. Pattie Sellers and Stephanie Mehta have outdone themselves once again!
Denise Morrison (President/CEO of Campbell Soup Company) kicked off the morning in her leadership session, underscoring the importance and yet challenge of risk-taking and innovation within Fortune 500 organizations. Beth Comstock (CMO/SVP, GE) and later Wendy Clark (SVP Marketing, Coca-Cola) both talked about the transformational nature and now necessity of embracing social business.
@fortunempw great panel on Boards – Anne Mulcahy, Carol Bartz, Clara Shih, proposing term limits on boards (10-12 years), great idea
— stilenius (@stilenius) October 2, 2012
Following this, I was delighted to speak on a panel alongside Carol Bartz (former CEO of Yahoo! and before that CEO of Autodesk, now director on several boards including Cisco) and Anne Mulcahy (former CEO of Xerox, now Chairman of the Board of Save the Children and board director at Johnson & Johnson, Target, Washington Post, etc.), moderated by the talented Carol Loomis. We had a great discussion about how the best public boards and companies operate. In a nutshell:
- Directors have the courage and culture to constructively disagree with one another and with management without anyone taking it personally.
- There is ample diversity of backgrounds and opinions on board to carefully consider all options and angles in the case of important decisions. The board is large and diverse enough to encompass the full breadth of the corporation’s businesses, market segments, and geographies, but not so large that it becomes unwieldy or clumsy.
- Greater care and consideration should be given during both the director selection and onboarding process. Board members need to remain committed to continual learning, preparation, and relationship-building with other board members and management.
In the afternoon, Michelle Gass (President, Starbucks EMEA) and Ros Brewer (CEO, Sam’s Club) discussed what it takes to help build two of America’s most beloved companies and brands.
But perhaps my favorite part of the day was hearing the stories from three incredible entrepreneurs in developing countries for this year’s Fortune Global Women Leaders Award. Goldman Sachs CEO and Chairman Lloyd Blankfein honored Catherine Nyambala of STEMAfrica in Kenya, Precious Simba of Girls Development Initiative in Zimbabwe, and Madhu Uday of Earthen Symphony based in India. It’s exciting to see passion, innovation, and entrepreneurship in organizations both large and small changing the world, one man and one woman at a time.
Ed. note: Photos courtesy of Fortune Live Media on Flickr. To learn more about the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, read about Clara’s experience at last year’s event, where she chatted with Warren Buffett and many great women business leaders, here and here.