Celebrating our 30th anniversary this month, we feature the Leadership Story of our current Chair, Julie Goldstein. A businesswoman, entrepreneur and financial executive, Julie has led companies through significant change and is committed to advancing women’s impact globally. She talks about enjoying the journey and the importance of giving back.
What does being a leader mean to you?
Leadership is about having a vision, setting a direction and getting everyone to share and believe in the vision, through empathy and persuasion. It’s about coping with change, having the courage to put yourself forward and being committed to making a difference – to your organisation, your colleagues, your team, your family and friends. It’s about being authentic and true to your values. I’m a businesswoman first and foremost, dedicated to achieving outcomes. But it’s not just about the end result, it’s about the journey, and I’m always sensitive to people’s personal circumstances. I have found that people go above and beyond when they feel supported.
What have been the one or two biggest challenges in your life and how have you overcome them?
One challenge was having my first child at age 40 when I was President of a US Marketing Agency. Learning to adjust to a new norm, adapting and creating a supportive network to sustain me was tough. It was hard coming to terms with this huge change in my lifestyle, and it took a lot of courage and reflection to find a new balance.
Another challenge was returning to full time education in 2013 to study for the Graduate Diploma in Law. It was a little scary being in my mid-50s in a group of really smart 22-year-olds. I learnt so much from this experience. Not only about the study of law but how to adjust my approach and increase my ability to process and retain large volumes of information. The experience was transformational and offered insights into the many challenges facing young people, their mental wellbeing and the competitiveness of the education system and entry level job opportunities. It was the inspiration for me to re-engage with my alma mater, the University of Bristol – become a mentor to students, be appointed to the Board of Trustees, and become the first woman to be elected Chair of the Alumni Association.
What do you regard as your greatest successes, and why?
My first degree was in physics and I was keen to pursue a career in science, fascinated by the incredible discoveries and advancements in nuclear and quantum physics. But one of the best decisions I made before graduating was to become a Chartered Accountant, even though it wasn’t my passion at the time. I attribute a lot of my success in business and on boards to having this core skill.
Numbers are like musical notes. I see them on the page and they play a tune. My early career equipped me to take on tough challenges and gave me a powerful combination of analytical thinking, numerical fluency and strong conviction. It gave me respect on male-dominated boards and enabled me to ask challenging questions from a position of strength.
My early successes were about the milestones along my personal journey: being the first woman promoted to senior manager at Linotype Marketing, part of AlliedSignal, while still in my 20s; being part of the management team of Philips Auction Group to complete the sale of the business to LVMH; co-founding a niche digital marketing agency and securing Chanel as our first customer.
I’ve always thrived in organisations undergoing change, and I’ve often been parachuted into situations requiring rapid change. I have learnt I can survive in chaos.
Today, I would say I regard success as helping others along their journey; students and graduates to progress to meaningful careers, women to achieve recognition and promotion in their organisations. I didn’t devote sufficient time to giving back in my early career so I am making up for this now.
I think my success comes down to a combination of passion, resilience, courage, compassion, curiosity, and recognising the importance of building trust and winning hearts and minds. I do not believe anyone succeeds on their own. I have benefited from wonderful mentors, many of whom have been men, as I have typically worked in male dominated sectors.
Also, I have a lot of energy. I’m very enthusiastic about causes and try to motivate and inspire others. If I am given a tight deadline, I rise to that challenge!
I have not followed a linear career path. I have seized opportunities as they came along and have always been prepared to take risks and go after a role that inspired me. Moving from the UK to the US in 1989, where I took up the role of Chief Financial Officer North America for a marketing services group, accelerated my career. The US environment was more supportive of women in leadership positions and it was acceptable to strive for promotion because there wasn’t the same stigma attached to failing as in the UK.
How has your leadership style changed over time, and why?
In my early years I copied my male peers and adopted a more command and control style, but as I gained confidence and experience I was able to develop a more consensus-based leadership style, which comes more naturally to me.
I’ve learned how being purposefully understated in my leadership style can be more impactful than being the dominant voice. It requires significant thought and self-awareness. I’ve also learned how to be a good shape-shifter, adapting to the culture and circumstances that I’m in, while remaining true to my values.
What advice do you have for younger women aspiring to leadership roles?
- Enjoy the journey
- Make every moment count
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself outside your personal comfort zone
- Be authentic and true to yourself
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice
- Be willing to reinvent yourself
- Make time for good causes along the way
- Follow your passion
It is about the journey and the importance of giving back. I’m excited about the next chapter!
Julie Goldstein, Chair, IWF UK
I’ve learned how being purposefully understated in my leadership style can be more impactful than being the dominant voice. It requires significant thought and self-awareness.