BET Exec: As a Leader, Sometimes You Have to Say ‘My,’ Not ‘Our’

March 31, 2010  |  

(NYTimes.com) — This interview with Debra L. Lee, chairwoman and chief executive of BET Networks,, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Q. What were some key leadership lessons for you?

A. One occurred when I was appointed chief operating officer at BET. Before that, I was general counsel, and over time I had taken on more and more business projects.

When I was promoted to the new role it was assumed that I was picked as the successor to Bob Johnson, our founder. It was a good training ground.

But when Bob left and I became C.E.O., I had to learn different skills, and I had to become the leader of the company. I had to decide what my vision was, what I’m passionate about, and how I motivate my executive team to help me carry out my vision and my goals. For me, it was tough for a while to even say “my.”

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