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Pro’s advice for success: To bloom, keep ‘re-potting’

Kathleen MatthewsKathleen Matthews
Kathleen Matthews

FORTUNE — Kathleen Matthews, the EVP & Chief Global Communications & Public Affairs Officer at Marriott International (MAR), speaks every year to the rising-star women in the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring program. Matthews’ message always resonates, but this year it literally transformed the thinking of one businesswoman from Nigeria.

Listening to Matthews talk about leadership, Florence Ozor, a government relations specialist at Nigeria’s Rahamaniyya Oil and Gas Ltd., was riveted enough to come out of her shell and help lead the public campaign to find the Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram terrorist group. In a Guest Post on Postcards Monday, Ozor told her emotional story about learning to lead publicly.

For any leader to succeed long-term, Matthews told Ozor and her 22 fellow mentees in the Fortune-State Department program, you have to do more than seize the moment: You have to adapt and make changes throughout your career. Matthews, who spent 25 years as a TV reporter in Washington, DC., before she moved to Marriott, followed her own advice and allowed me to share it with you here. Here are Matthews’ three basic rules for success that lasts:

1. Push past fear and embrace change in order to keep growing. Too often women play it safe, rather than stretch past their comfort zone.

2. You don’t want to be a plant with a root system that has outgrown your pot. To flower and bloom, you need to keep “re-potting.”

3. Always be on the lookout for people to replace you when you do move into that bigger pot. This enables you to create a legacy, provide opportunity and pay it forward.

After 25 years in TV news, I made a career change at age 50 to a corporate communications and public affairs role at a global hospitality company. It was the scariest thing I ever did, and the smartest.