It’s no secret that former Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes identifies as an introvert. It seems strange that someone with introverted personality traits would be able to rise to a position that demands business savvy while under the gaze of the public eye. Yet that is exactly what Brenda Barnes accomplished by becoming the CEO of Sara Lee.
Her career in the business world has been largely a successful one. Her leadership style is well worth studying.
The Leadership Style Of Brenda Barnes
In order to understand what Brenda Barnes has accomplished thus far across the range of her professional achievements (which are considerable), particularly as those accomplishments relate to Sara Lee, it’s important to break down the various elements to the leadership style of Brenda Barnes:
1. Barnes isn’t afraid to tackle a challenge. When she assumed leadership of Sara Lee in 2005, she was assuming control of a company that was in serious trouble.
2. She is capable of going to work quickly. There wasn’t much of a “honeymoon period” for Barnes when she assumed the CEO position. She had to quickly address a wide series of complex problems that were plaguing Sara Lee.
3. She develops a vision and sticks to it. Turning Sara Lee around involved taking a series of difficult problems, breaking them down into the simplest terms possible, and addressing each one until the problem was resolved. One could say that her vision largely succeeded.
4. She isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Succeeding in the position of Sara Lee CEO meant having to make some dramatic changes to make the company slimmer and better equipped to survive.
5. She is patient and committed to her vision. When Sara Lee continued to struggle in the early moments of her CEO tenure, the media was quick to suggest that appointing her to the position had been a bad decision. She clearly didn’t worry about what the critics had to say.
6. Her vision allowed for input from others. Although she identifies as an introvert, it’s clear that Barnes does not have a hard time in working with others to shape a vision that largely consists of her influence.
7. She prefers simplicity. Sara Lee was a company overwhelmed with unnecessary components when Barnes took over. It is a considerably different company in that regard in the present.
Brenda Barnes struck some as an unlikely CEO, but she clearly knew what she was doing as she steered Sara Lee through uncertain waters.