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How women get to (and stay at) the top

April 29, 2013, 11:09 PM UTC
IPG Mediabrand boss Jacki Kelley

Jacki Kelley, who is the CEO of North America and president of global clients for IPG Mediabrands, is one of 36 women participating in the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Launched in 2006, the program pairs rising-star women from developing countries with American execs who participate in Fortune‘s annual Most Powerful Women Summit. For the next two weeks, the international stars will shadow Fortune MPW at U.S.-based companies including Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), DuPont , IBM , Goldman Sachs , Google , Johnson & Johnson , and Wal-mart .

This is all about sharing lessons in leadership. And to that point, IPG’s Kelley was one of the honorees at last week’s Matrix Awards for extraordinary women in communications. Last week on Postcards, I told you about the career advice divvied out by Matrix winners Bonnie Hammer of NBCU and HSN CEO Mindy Grossman. Now, here’s a bit of what Kelley shared with the Matrix audience:

Learning is better than climbing. Some of my most rewarding experiences have come from unexpected places. For example, I left USA TODAY after 18 years, having reached the most senior advertising role and left to be an “individual contributor” at Yahoo . That is code for NO authority yet expectation to influence! I left almost two decades of equity, not to mention a big corner office with a bathroom for a cubicle with a pole in it. I remember having to maneuver my chair just right so I could actually get out of it. The learning: Pick people, not jobs.

Celebrate the tough stuff. The Irish tell a story about a man who arrives at the pearly gates and asks to be let in. St. Peter says, “Of course, just show us your scars.” The man says, “I have no scars.” To which St. Peter replies: “What a pity.” I am lucky. I bear scars — some a result of things I found worth fighting for, some by virtue of unforeseen circumstances that challenged me in ways I could not have envisioned. One of life’s most precious gifts is finding purpose in this tough stuff. Lean into these times and use them to help you fall forward in powerful ways.

It’s never just business — and that is a good thing. It’s impossible to separate the human element from business. On the back of strong relationships focused on mutual gain, profits will follow. While people will always ask you WHAT you do, I opt to pay far more attention to HOW I do it. I believe that the quality of our relationships remains the most valued measurement of success. As Maya Angelou said so well, “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”