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Dean Blount's Blog

Courage and Conviction
January 17, 2012

  Courageous Counsel: Conversations with Women General Counsel in the Fortune 500
   

I recently had the privilege of being featured in a new book with my sister, Susan Blount, senior vice president and general counsel of Prudential Financial. The book, Courageous Counsel: Conversations with Women General Counsel in the Fortune 500, offers reflections from the first generation of female leaders in the field of law at Fortune 500 companies.

One of the things that we talked about in our shared interview is how deeply we were shaped by our parents, who set incredibly high standards in terms of both our work and personal ethics. They were not the type of parents who let you off easy – anything less than your best effort was not affirmed, even if you had earned an A in the process. As my dad often reminded me, “The world’s standards should not be your standards. You must have the conviction to set your own.”

Below are a few passages from our interview where Susan and I reflected together about courage.

On the nature of courage…

“(Courage)…is fundamentally social in nature—its success or failure is visible to others. It is the willingness to overcome the status quo and take a stand, or do something in an unexpected or perhaps untraditional way…”

On courage and culture…

“Being an effective leader means adjusting to the culture in which you find yourself—you have to be able to hear and adjust to feedback. Once you have feedback, the challenge—and this is where the judgment of courage comes in—lies in understanding precisely how to adjust to align with the culture.”

On curiosity, courage, and authenticity…

“(Curiosity)…means always being willing to get into another person’s shoes. It means having a fundamental mind-set of seeking to understand the world around you. It means knowing the client perspective as well as your own, the business issues as well as the legal ones. On the macro-level, it means being well-informed; on the micro-level, it means being self-aware…

“It’s about having a fundamental openness to the world while having also deep clarity on who you are, what your convictions are, and what you believe in. And in that I think you have your working definition of courage: an amazing capacity for adaptiveness grounded by personal conviction, a skill that does not stay put, but has to be found again
and again.”

As I reflect on Kellogg, I can’t think of a better community to move this sense of courage into action as we envision where we will go as a school in the 21st century.

I welcome your comments, feedback and ideas at sallyblount@kellogg.northwestern.edu

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