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How failure could get you to the C-suite

November 25, 2014, 1:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of Omnilife

MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How can women rise to the C-suite? is written by Angélica Fuentes, CEO of Omnilife.

As I wrote in a previous article for Fortune, Latin America has very few female CEOs. So this question really hits home and is one that I hope to hear asked more and more. Here are a few valuable lessons I have learned in my own journey to the C-suite:

Outwork everyone around you
As former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a woman I have long admired, said, “I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work.” This is especially true for women who hope to rise to the C-suite of a company. My first job was in my family’s energy business and I quickly found that career advancement required me to work twice as hard as those around me, most of whom were men. So early on, I would go to the director general’s office on weekends and immerse myself in budgeting and financials. This kind of extra effort earned the respect of my colleagues and management. It allowed me to see the business more strategically. And ultimately, it put me on a path to become CEO.

Don’t be afraid to fail
We are often held back by fear of failure. This mindset is a barrier to success for businesswomen and potential female entrepreneurs, particularly in Latin America. The “fail fast” culture of Silicon Valley has been slow to make its way to places like Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Bogotá. But you’ve got to take risks to make it to the C-suite. I recently had the privilege to moderate a conversation with PepsiCo (PEP) CEO Indra Nooyi, and she said, “my mother always said dream big and you’ll be something.’” That’s great advice that I’ll be sharing with my two daughters as they grow up, because big dreams can help you overcome big fears.

Be true to yourself
Rising to the C-suite – or staying there – should never come at the expense of staying true to your values, vision and personal priorities. Ten years ago, I found my vision and my board’s vision regarding the future of our energy company were not the same. So I left my position as CEO, not knowing what would be next or if I would ever rise to the C-suite again. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I’ve been fortunate to find my way back to the top of a great company – one that includes thousands of women who inspire me every day.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How can women rise to the C-suite?

Why hard work won’t get you to the C-suite by Stephanie Ruhle, Editor-at-Large, Bloomberg News and Anchor/Managing Editor, BloombergTV.

How can women rise to the C-suite? by Denise Morrison, President and CEO of Campbell Soup Company.