Diversity Woman Magazine

FALL 2013

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

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W how I looked than how I think? Yes. Has it hurt or helped? I think it has helped." Recently, however, Tilton has been wondering if the time has come to tone it down. She concedes that one by-product of being noticed for your appearance and attitude is that your brain gets overlooked. "I earned and saved $10 million and then turned that into an $8 billion business," she says. "I know every aspect of 75 businesses and am CEO of fve of them—and I don't think anybody ever writes about my intellect. To be honest, that bothers me a little." Yet, many do acknowledge that her success is rooted not only in her guts, force of personality, and instinct but also in her business acumen and brilliance. "She's defnitely very bright, has great command of the issues that she's been working on, and her motivations are extraordinarily public spirited," Richard Levin, president of Yale University, told New York magazine in 2011. L ynn Tilton Fact Number 4: You don't want to work for her — unless you're as driven as she is. She's been called the "dominatrix of business" for her assertive approach and black-leather wardrobe. She doesn't deny any of it but says she has mellowed in recent years. "I don't drive anyone to the extent I drive myself, and the same thing with accountability," she says. "I work seven days a week, 18 hours a day because my life is devoted to others. If you choose not to be part of that, you can make that choice. I try to motivate people in an inspirational way, but I'm also not carrying people anymore. I did push people, but what I've realized as of late is that it's not worth my energy. If I can't motivate people by the mission, they need to move on, and I need to care less." Ten she couldn't resist adding, "But I do hug people when they walk in the room, before I spank them!" L ynn Tilton Fact Number 5: She is a feminist in a miniskirt. Tilton says her public persona has been carefully cultivated to demonstrate that there is no cookie-cutter template for being a successful woman in a male-dominated industry. "In general, when women change who they are and try to be other than who they are, their chances of success are exponentially diminished. I have taken it to an extreme because I want other women to see that they don't have to change who they are," she says. "You can be bright and sparkly and beautiful di ve rs i tywoma n.com When women change who they are and try to be other than who they are, their chances of success exponentially diminish. or smart and sexy and sophisticated and still take on maledominated industries and win. What I wear and how I look are making a point. It is like the four-minute mile: when someone fnally does it, you know it's possible." While she acknowledges that there is a great deal of sexism in Corporate America, Tilton doesn't give women a free pass either. "Women face so many obstacles," she says. "One is the biological truth of childbearing, and the fear that once they have children they won't get back to work. Te other is that woman are not kind to one another and don't network and support each other enough in corporate America. We are inculcated to compete with one another because there may be only one position for a woman." Te answer, she says, is for women to take their destiny into their own hands. In a nod to Sheryl Sandberg and her book Lean In, she says, "When women know they are ready, they should not delay in leaning in. Men tend to take jobs before they're ready, but woman wait too long—we all need to fnd a balance." When asked what advice she would give to a young woman just beginning her career and wanting to reach the top, Tilton, predictably, talks about passion over profts. Surprisingly, this self-proclaimed tough, unrelenting boss also emphasizes the power of relationships. "Women are more mission oriented than money oriented, and what allows us to continue on a path—since we are all going to face terrible obstacles on our way to the stars—is perseverance and passion," she says. "It starts with a dream and vision of something you believe in and care about so much that it keeps you going. You need to have a dream that doesn't fade when things get difcult or people beat you down. "And along the way, make sure you have your best friend by your side" she continues. "I found out that leadership is a lonely path. You need someone to lean on. You need someone there to motivate you who has the exact same interests and whose dream is also fueled by passion and perseverance. "Te reality is, if you dream it, you can build it. You don't have to follow anyone else's path. You need to have a dream, and the only thing that should provide boundaries for you is the law and integrity. Otherwise, there is nothing that says this is the way you have to do it. All things are possible!" DW Fa ll 2 0 1 3 DI VE R SIT Y W OMA N 51

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