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Preparing for the Perfect Storm:

Pamela Thomas-Graham, a graduate of Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Business School (MBA ’89, OH), is now President and Chief Executive Officer of CNBC. Despite adverse family circumstances, Ms. Thomas-Graham came to AASU’s Naylor Fitzhugh conference where she was honored with its 2002 Professional Achievement Award.

Prior to working at CNBC, where she has served as President and CEO of CNBC.com, Thomas-Graham became the first African-American female partner at McKinsey & Company, only six years after completing her studies at Harvard. In addition to her professional responsibilities, Thomas-Graham has a four year old son, has written two mystery novels, and is married to author and lawyer Lawrence Otis Graham.
In true former-consultant style, Pamela Thomas-Graham delivered brief but structured thoughts when she spoke to last Saturday night’s AASU banquet crowd.

She began by explaining that since becoming CEO last July, her role at CNBC, a channel that provides market coverage to more than 198 million homes worldwide, has been challenged by world events. The events of September 11, anthrax scare at NBC, and economic decline have created what she described as the ‘Perfect Storm’ of every challenge a leader could face.

Thomas-Graham suggested that in this time of uncertainty, leaders should do three things: Be visible – that is to lead in a visceral way; show human vulnerability with employees; and, know the details of what’s going on in their companies.

She went on to suggest that at all times leaders should do the following: Surround themselves with people who inspire them; not take ‘no’ for an answer-especially when a negative response seems come from diminished expectation of their abilities; and have a vision of what the future can be – leaders are optimistic while being realistic.

Pamela Thomas-Graham is a leader who has accomplished much professionally and personally in her 38 years. She credited her parents for instilling a dogged determination in her since childhood in Detroit. Given her focus and drive, as well as her many talents, I’m sure we’d all agree that she is a true “Renaissance” woman who is well poised to whether any storm.

March 4, 2002
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