I was very excited to attend the Washington Women’s Leadership Initiative for several reasons. One it was at Georgetown, and most importantly it brought together women leaders (and a few brave men) to hear from Katharine Weymouth on her time at the Post.Katharine is down to earth and comes across as someone you would have over to talk and love every minute of it. She is approachable, funny, and self-deprecating. It is clear by her presence that she is an intentional and gutsy leader, blended with a soft style of leadership that can be hard when it needs to be. She shared six key insights about leading through change at the Post and what it meant for her.

1. Talent is Critical. HR = Talent.

In her mind, talent is the most important part of her organization, and that the trick is to find the right people, fit them in the right role, and then retain them as long as possible. Her approach was to really coach people and teach them then help them transition to their next opportunity. Doing so made a huge difference in the performance of the Post. She referenced Jack Welch and how he spends 60% of his time on people.

2. Be Decisive.Katharine talked at length about how she always surrounded herself with the people smarter than her to help provide insight and input. That it is critical as a leader to Look at options, Listen to options, and then make a decision. Decide yes or no, never maybe.

3. Take Calculated Risks.

As a leader it is critical to think about the risks, but to take action and try new things. When failure happens, do not freeze, keep trying. As a leader, it is also important to call out to your team that when you ask the team to do new things, it is on you as the leader should it fail.

4. Be Willing to Not Be Liked.

As a leader you will make decisions that people just do not like. That is the job of a leader, to be provocative and understand that leadership is not a popularity contest. Katharine shared stories about deciding to cut content from the Post or move things around would definitely generate positive and negative feedback. “You have to be willing to say the things that are not popular”. Katharine stated.

5. Be Yourself.

You can only do your job the way you can do it, not how others would or could do it. It is important to be authentic to yourself and not try to act like others or how they may want you to act.

6. Build Your Own Team of Rivals.

Katharine shared her approach to building her own executive team of dissenters. That is was important to have people that would speak up and have different perspectives.

There has been a lot of change at the Post, one example is when Katharine ushered in the new digital age at the Post. How does she do this? Over time, your skin gets thicker. Just believe in yourself and your decisions. Katharine ended the talk by saying: “Do what you believe, always consult, trust your gut”.

Be your best self,

Jennifer Dalton