Noetic’s Women in Leadership series highlights strong women leaders across industries who inspire us personally and professionally – as leaders, collaborators, and humans. They are recognized and influential in their respective fields and they leverage their positions of leadership to uplift, encourage, and support other women.
This month we are proud to feature Michelle Russo, Chief Communications Officer at the United States Chamber of Commerce.
Of your achievements, what makes you most proud?
I often advise younger executives to be fearless in their careers. The only risk in taking chances is failing to learn. As I reflect on my own career highlights and choices, I’m proud that I’ve ‘walked the talk.’ I’ve taken on roles and responsibilities that ‘on paper’ I probably had no business taking on, but I did it anyway and learned a lot along the way.
What is your rule of thumb when it comes to leadership?
There are many definitions of leadership. The only one that matters to me is this: A leader is someone people WANT to follow, not someone people HAVE to follow. Underscores the importance of influence and inspiration rather than hierarchy.
Who has had the biggest impact on you and your career?
My mother. She put herself through college while raising two little girls. She went on to get an MBA and built a very successful career as a professor and mentor to so many people. My fearlessness stems from her example.
What has been your greatest lesson in the workplace?
The importance of allies. You can’t just be good at what you do. You need people in your corner and at your side.
How do you strike an optimal work/life balance?
Every person has to define ‘optimal’ for themselves. My family is the most important part of my life, but my career has been a lifelong passion. And I never apologize for either.
What are you most passionate about outside of work?
Traveling with my family. Meeting people from different places and experiences.
What’s your advice to young females beginning their careers?
Be fearless! Take chances. Be curious. Be yourself.
If you had to do anything over, what would it be and why?
Nothing. Maybe I would have spent less time sweating the small stuff.
What are some of the challenges women continue to face in their careers?
The Double Standard, although some of it is self-inflicted. I’ve never seen a panel or interview where a male executive is being asked about work/life balance. In turn, I’ve never/rarely heard a male executive raise the subject proactively.
What is the most important quality we can offer in our day-to-day roles?
Demonstrate curiosity and continuous learning. My third-grade teacher had a sign in the classroom that set the course for my life: “The only stupid question is the one not asked.” I tell my kids, “I’d rather look stupid than be stupid.”
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