The Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Starbucks (SBUX) board member shares the leadership lessons she learned at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit.
By Clara Shih, founder and CEO of Hearsay Social
This October, I attended the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C., and spoke on a panel with three other women under age 40: Warren Buffett's financial assistant Tracy Britt Cool, Cinnabon President Kat Cole, and SunRun founder and CEO (and my Stanford classmate) Lynn Jurich. Fortune's Leigh Gallagher moderated the conversation, which covered all kinds of inspiring and helpful leadership lessons.
Here are a few highlights I gleaned from my co-panelists:
Inexperience isn't always bad. Jurich's lack of experience in the solar and energy industries freed her to ask "dumb questions." (Jurich's company installs solar power systems in residential and commercial properties). This turned out to be quite smart. She was able to create her company's energy-focused mission with a fresh perspective because she wasn't weighed down by expertise -- and the assumptions that often come with it.
Details and depth matter. Cool met her future boss, Buffett, when she was an undergrad at Harvard and organized a group visit to Berkshire Hathaway's (BRKA) Omaha headquarters. Most students are in and out within the day, but Cool and her group stayed for several days to get to know Buffett's businesses.
It's okay to fail. Cole talked about the importance of risk-taking -- and how different industries tolerate failure to various degrees. She reminds her Cinnabon employees that they "make buns, not bombs." No lives are at stake when a batch doesn't turn out. It's okay to fail. That's how we get better.
Respond to discrimination with grace. Gallagher asked if any of us had felt discriminated against in our careers or school years due to age, race or gender. I shared my philosophy that you can't control what other people assume about you, but you can control how you react. It's usually most constructive to give people the benefit of the doubt and respond with grace.
Following our panel, I caught up with two Silicon Valley friends who are under-40 influentials. Wildfire (GOOG) CEO Victoria Ransom (left) and Instagram (FB) director of operations Emily White (right) joined me, fittingly, for an Instagram.
Do you know a woman who is building a game-changing startup? She could be a Fortune Most Powerful Women Entrepreneur.
The 2012 Fortune MPW Entrepreneur program is open for nominations and applications. Each year, Fortune recognizes 10 emerging female founders of innovative, groundbreaking companies. We're looking for emerging female entrepreneurs at thriving businesses, based anywhere in the world, with revenue between $1 million and $25 million. We'll invite the 2012 winners MOREPatricia Sellers - Jul 2, 2012 10:54 AM ET
Clara Shih is an early achiever. At age five, she arrived in the U.S., from Hong Kong, with her parents. With no access to bilingual education, she was initially placed in special classes for kids with speech impediments and advanced so rapidly that she scored a 1420 on her SATs -- in eighth grade. She started her company, Hearsay Social, at age 27, made Fortune's list of Most Powerful Women MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 11, 2012 10:22 AM ET
This past summer, when Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg emailed me about Clara Shih, we at Fortune knew to keep a lookout.
"I think she is awesome," Sandberg wrote in her email.
Sure enough, Starbucks (SBUX) yesterday named 29-year-old Shih, a social-media entrepreneur, to replace Sandberg on its board of directors.
A 29-year-old on the Starbucks board?!
Starbucks is bulking up on social-media expertise at a time when boards of most Fortune 500 companies desperately MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 15, 2011 1:20 PM ET
There is no shortage of female entrepreneurs. But where are the women who think really, really big?
FORTUNE -- Ever wonder why there 's no female Mark Zuckerberg? It is, after all, the era of the social web. Women use social-networking sites more than men do. Women stay on social sites longer. Women provide the bulk of the revenue at Zuckerberg's Facebook and gaming company Zynga, and most other fast-growing startups in the consumer Internet MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 4, 2011 1:31 PM ET
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