How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

IBM exec: Growth and comfort do not coexist

October 5, 2011: 12:30 PM ET
Ginni Rometty Fortune Most Powerful Women
IBM's Ginni Rometty

Ginni Rometty, the woman who may well be the next CEO of IBM (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."

For more updates on the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. And for the full transcript of the Summit interview with Rometty, click here.

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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