Ann Mukherjee discovered an unexpected truth about being the boss after spending the first half of her career climbing the corporate ladder: It’s lonely at the top.
Being the only woman of colour in the boardroom makes it even more lonely.
The second-largest wine and alcohol company in the world, Pernod Ricard, employs Mukherjee, 56, as its CEO and chairman for North America. She is in charge of well-known premium liquor brands like Absolut, Jameson, and Malibu. In a field dominated by men, she is also the first woman of colour to hold the position.
It can be difficult to overcome the fact that speaking up in that situation doesn’t come naturally, but it’s crucial to persevere, she tells CNBC Make It.
Mukherjee asserts that upon taking over as CEO in 2019, she quickly realised that the cliché of an American CEO is marked by an overt “machismo” of being “buttoned.”up and a “confident” boss who “has all the answers.”
She came to the conclusion that these prejudices were damaging and counterproductive. As a CEO, everyone expects you to perform at your peak level at all times. According to her, the hardest aspect of being a great CEO is feeling comfortable stating “I’m lonely” or “I need help.” But in order to be an effective leader, honesty and humility are just as crucial as confidence.
The one piece of advice Mukherjee would give to anyone still figuring out their professional path is: “Do not worry about fitting in, and do not be afraid to speak up, because when you have confidence in yourself, anything is possible.” This is a lesson she wishes she had learned earlier in her career.
“You need to indiscriminately love your entire self… all of your abilities, shortcomings, problems, and chances,” advises Mukherjee. Understanding your shortcomings will help you deal with them and overcome them. Only after that can you actually advance both personally and professionally.
Mukherjee emphasises the value of accepting your shortcomings along with knowing your weaknesses. She admits that her success is largely due to her ability to fail. The explanation is that, when I’ve failed, I’ve learnt to change course and look for growth chances, and as a result, I’ve emerged from those failures stronger than before.