Tips From The Top: One On One With Clarke Murphy, CEO of Russell Reynolds Associates
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April 04, 2019
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best advice for current and aspiring leaders

Thrive Global

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The Thrive Global article, “Tips From The Top: One On One With Clarke Murphy, CEO of Russell Reynolds Associates," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates CEO Clarke Murphy on his best advice for current and aspiring leaders. The article is excerpted below. 

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people? 

Clarke: I was born in to a sailing family. My father was a big sailor, so I was exposed to it from a young age.  I sailed professionally for two years after graduating college. Since then, I have completed six transatlantic ocean races, including three in the last 10 years. 

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth as a leader? 

Clarke: I have spent almost my entire career at Russell Reynolds Associates, working in multiple countries, and holding ten different roles over the years. Given all that change, it has not felt like one company or one job, but a multitude. 
That does not mean it has always been easy.  I was not named chief executive in 2006, the first time I was considered for the role, and working through that is probably the biggest challenge I faced in my career, but also resulted in one of the greatest opportunities.  I went on to lead our Board and CEO Practice for the next six years, and spent every day observing and learning from great leaders in other organizations. When I was eventually named CEO, I put all those lessons to use, and I think I am a much better leader as a result. 

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? 

Clarke: I would highlight three things: 

First, the best leaders spend a tremendous amount of time with leaders outside of their own industry to understand how those leaders think, and how they run their organizations, and identify transferable lessons or behaviors.  Looking elsewhere helps spark creativity. If you are just looking at your competition, you run the risk of playing it safe, focusing on the tried-and-true, and never making a truly bold move. 

Second, effective leaders also need a willingness to embrace change.  Part of that is anticipating the future, be it examining potential new market opportunities, changes in the workplace, or emerging competitors.  Leaders who are willing to learn and relearn as business changes will always be in a better position than those leaders who are stuck in one way of thinking. 

Third, the best leaders understand that diversity of thought is not just a slogan, but a real opportunity.  You often learn the most from those people who are complete opposites of you in thought, perspective, and beliefs. 

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