Deborah (Deb) Butler came to speak at Women in Leadership on “What I Learned about Leadership in the Railway Industry.” Deb is a trailblazer in the railroad industry, and for many years, she was the only female EVP at Norfolk Southern. She shared a variety of her career experiences in a business in which most people aren’t too familiar. Deb’s exciting career path and insights were just what we needed to motivate us to stay on our own tracks!
Taking time to share some significant lessons she’s learned during her 3+ decades of experience, Deb pointed out that she’s had the opportunity to work in many departments, from Accounting to Operations to Information Technology. Some key takeaways include:
- “Take your job very seriously, but never take yourself too seriously. Find a way to get your point across with humor and do good work. Performance matters.
- Figure out what you can do for women in your organization and work to fill the pipeline with a gender diverse group.
- Find a mentor who throws you in the deep end of the pool. They have a lifejacket for you, but they want to see if you can learn to swim really quickly.
- Take personally challenging and career risking opportunities.
- Assume responsibilities outside of your normal job duties – these are opportunities for growth, visibility, and the chance to learn new skills.
- Don’t actively plan your career – part of my success was being willing to take lateral moves to learn more.”
Deb completed the Harvard Advanced Management Program and said she learned a few things from that program that are applicable to just about anyone. Those lessons were:
- Read True North by Bill George. This is the idea that people who seek your leadership can see your authenticity. She respects people who are fair and tough, who can be depended on and will do what they say they will do.
- A good leader is not necessarily the person with the most followers but the person who has developed the most other leaders – good leaders – along the way.
- It’s not that leadership is not required, but it is incumbent upon leaders to develop leaders.
To read the full summary, click here.