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When you conjure up an image of a c-suite executive, you probably don’t envision a smiling, friendly person. At first, Kate Lewis didn’t either.

And that was a problem as Lewis started taking on jobs in the publishing world with greater and greater responsibilities: By nature, she has a smiling, friendly disposition. But she didn’t see very many people like that in the corridors of power.

“In the magazine industry, there are a lot of—there’s an image, right, that you need to be a high-fashion person, that you need to have been a journalist in the trenches,” said Lewis, the chief content officer for Hearst Magazines. As a young, ambitious woman, she emulated them—thinking doing so was key to her thriving in the notoriously fast-paced New York publishing world.

Instead, she had a realization that changed everything: What if being herself—that smiling, friendly person—actually made her a better leader?

“I found my success when I became who I am. And that’s hard,” Lewis said during an interview for POLITICO’s Women Rule podcast. “I became comfortable with just being Kate. And that enabled me to have more candid, more deep, more real conversations with the people who were either going to hire me or were going to manage me or who I was going to work with. And I think that has made me more successful.”

At Hearst, Lewis oversees some of the most enduring and recognized magazines in America, including Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Elle, Marie Claire, Popular Mechanics, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle, to name a few.

“Even though wisdom may be, you know, not to be the goofball, and to … not openly question yourself or open yourself up for debate, I think that has worked out really well for me,” Lewis said. “I think it’s coupled with the fact that I am decisive, and when I see the path, I go after it, and that I am capable of being critical, and all those things.”

“To me, that is the best strategy,” said Lewis: “Just be yourself and trust that that’s enough.”

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