Career Advice From Cindi Leive of Glamour Magazine
- JWB Post
- April 10, 2015
Were you in leadership roles as a kid?
Cindi Leive: I loved reading and writing, and I had what I guess you would describe as a “magazine brain” from Day 1. When I was 8, I decided to publish a literary magazine, and I would solicit contributions from all the kids on my street. They were a little less interested in the project than I was, so I ended up having to fill most of the magazine myself.
Tell me about your parents.
Cindi Leive: I was lucky to have two great mother figures in my life. My mom was a biochemist — she was one of just a few women in leadership roles at the National Institutes of Health — and really loved her work. She would come home and be talking about lipopolysaccharides and cell membranes at the dinner table. What I took away from that was that it’s an amazing gift to have a job that you love.
I also have an incredible stepmother who gave up her career to move to the United States to marry my dad, and I saw in her a woman who was completely happy and fulfilled in her life and not working full time outside the home. That made me more open-minded about all the different choices you can make in your life. So the whole “mommy wars” thing really sets my teeth on edge.
Were there any expressions they would repeat often around the dinner table?
Cindi Leive: I remember my dad telling me,
When did you first start managing people?
Cindi Leive: I was about 25. Nobody ever really sits you down and says, “Here’s some Management 101 on how to do it.” It’s a skill you have to learn. Just because you know how to be a good friend, and even a good co-worker, doesn’t mean that you’re going to know how to be a good boss. I didn’t ask as many questions in the beginning as I should have.
Any specific memo-to-self moments?
Cindi Leive: The big challenge for me was learning how to be firm and clear. It’s very reassuring for employees to understand what is expected of them. Otherwise, how will they know that they’re doing a good job? Finding a way to do that while also creating an office that is warm and friendly and engaging is a balancing act that it took me a while to master.
What about feedback you’ve received about your leadership style over the years?
Cindi Leive: Years ago, an executive editor of mine said, “You should count the number of times you praise somebody and then double that.” Even the toughest, steeliest writer or editor often really wants to be told, “Hey, that was a great piece.” Early in my career as a manager, it probably took me a while to realize that everybody wants that. It’s just a human need.
How do you hire? What qualities do you look for?
Cindi Leive: I want to see that they’re energetic and curious. At least half the questions I ask are to just hear how the person talks when they respond. Are they confident? Are they interested? Have they thought through a few stories before the interview? Journalists have to be prepared for the interviews they do on behalf of the magazine, so I want to see that they’re prepared for this one.
I always ask people why they want the job. There’s not one right answer, but I want to see that there is a reason. Years ago, Leonard Lauder [the former C.E.O. of the Estée Lauder Companies] told me that somebody needs to ask for the job, to say something along the lines of: “I really want this position. I think I could do something great with it, and I’d be so excited to join your team. What else can I do to convince you?” If they haven’t said that, then they haven’t gone far enough. I’m always pleased when somebody does that.
I also like asking, “What would you be doing if you weren’t in this business at all?” I’m always curious about who people are outside of work, and I think you want to hire people who have something going on in their lives besides work. I have definitely seen that people who have full lives are not just happier but also tend to be better at their jobs. They don’t take everything so personally.
People who can come up with a great idea and execute it, soup to nuts, are really valuable. We are never at a shortage for great ideas. But then there are people who have the project management piece of it, and that’s not something that I think people were hired for in magazines 25 years ago. Now it’s indispensable. The people on my team who can come up with an idea, put together a plan and presentation for getting it done, pick up the phone and find partners, are gold.
What career and life advice do you give to graduating college students?
Cindi Leive: I think everybody does better if they really like some aspect of what they’re doing, but work is work. We can’t all work in jobs where we feel like our heart is singing every day.
The idea that your job is going to make your heart sing on a daily basis is just not true. If that’s the expectation of a 25-year-old today, they’re going to be sorely disappointed. But you can aim for a pretty good heart-singing-to-bummed-out ratio.