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IBM exec: Growth and comfort do not coexist

IBM’s Ginni Rometty

Ginni Rometty, the woman who may well be the next CEO of IBM , dodged the question about her next career turn in this morning’s interview at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. But no matter, she eagerly tossed out tips that she has used to get very, very close to the top. Here’s Rometty’s best advice:

1. “Growth and comfort do not coexist,” says SVP Rometty, who is No. 7 on the just-released 2011 Most Powerful Women list. Every time she has grown as an executive, she says, it’s because she took a risk.

2. “Be first and be lonely” is a mantra she has learned from her boss, IBM chief executive Sam Palmisano. Most executives are drawn to spaces where somebody already is, but the way to make money–and make a great career–is to be a pioneer.

3. “Ask me what I believe.” While a common (and overused) question is “What’s your focus?” says Rometty, the more important element is clarity of belief and passion that spreads throughout an organization. “If youre clear on what you believe,” she says, “you have a great foundation to go make a market.”

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