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Debbie Majoras shares characteristics of an effective general counsel

Exemplifying perseverance, dedication, and legal leadership

What are the characteristics of an effective general counsel? Debbie Majoras, chief legal officer (CLO) and secretary at Procter & Gamble, shares insights on her life, career, and leading through crisis. She brings her worldview to light in this engaging podcast episode hosted by CLO Program Research & Insights Director Lori Lorenzo.

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Bringing authenticity to leadership

In this episode of Resilient, Debbie discusses her views, experiences, and insights as CLO, former chair of the Federal Trade Commission, and law attorney. She highlights the characteristics of an effective general counsel and the ways leaders can bring authenticity to their role. Debbie also explores how organizations can tap into their equity in social issues and foster diversity and inclusion in their teams.

We talk a lot about authenticity, leadership, and the importance of it. When you can show up to your team as someone who’s a true human being facing obstacles, who can still succeed—that tells your team we can all do that.

We have this need for perfection. In fact, it doesn't exist. What you have to recognize—and I think the more you go through life, particularly as a leader—you just realize, wow, there is nothing perfect, least of all me. And to try to keep striving for that is false and you'll never be satisfied.

Episode highlights

Characteristics of an effective general counsel
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Tenacious and enthusiastic legal leadership

In a career spanning big law, government, and the private sector, Debbie Majoras has demonstrated both perseverance and dedication. She puts a premium on inclusion and knows that we all sometimes feel we’re on the outside looking in.

I don’t care how old you are, you’re going to walk in and on that first day, and you’re going to get that feeling in your stomach that says, ‘What if the other kids won't eat lunch with me?’ You know, you just own it … we all feel that way.

She also knows that it takes a fair amount of grit to rebound when things don’t go according to plan. It really comes down to how you act when things don’t go as you would like—and those times show just how resilient you are as an individual and professional.

Every one of us is going to have disappointments. Every one of us is going to have tough stuff in life. It’s not whether you do or you don’t— because you will—but how you handle it. That’s what people are watching. That’s when people see if you handle it with grace and dignity.

Legal leadership in the time of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread globally, Debbie’s team at Procter & Gamble worked with governments and shared playbooks to help maintain the flow of goods while keeping workers safe.

It was literally like running a control center, where all of our people around the world were going immediately to these governments and saying, ‘we need to keep operating, here's why—because here’s what we make, and here’s what your people want, and we know how to do it and keep the employees safe.’

[As COVID spread around the world], governments had no playbook for this, right? They didn't have [the experience or] a regulation on the shelf that says, ‘Okay, during a pandemic, do the following things: temperature checks, masks, social distancing.’ But we had done it [in China], so we were helping them. We were saying, ‘Look, here's the playbook. Here’s how we think we can do this, and we'll show you how we can do it.’

Organizational citizenship

As organizations develop their own citizenship platforms, they should look to what equities they already have and build from there—it can help them be better at it.

The closer you can stay to your own equity, the more powerful you will be. And if every corporation [made] contributions based on their equity, then we would really make very significant contributions to society.

Driving diversity and inclusion

Debbie stresses that leaders can foster a more diverse and inclusive environment.

For me, it really does start with setting the tone of an inclusive environment where people’s views are welcome. And there are a lot of different ways to do that…Role model it…as much as possible.

Read more about Debbie’s article on strengthening ties with the business and board.

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Resilient is an award-winning podcast series that features authentic, engaging, and thought-provoking conversations with leaders. Hear interviews and personal stories about how CEOs, senior executives, government officials, board members, and people outside of the business world embrace complexity to lead, navigate, and disrupt to accelerate performance. And discover what they learned about resilience amid risk, crisis, and disruption.

For more in the series, visit the Resilient podcast library page.

This podcast is part of an ongoing series of interviews with senior-level executives. Ms. Majoras’s participation in this podcast is solely for educational purposes based on her knowledge of the subject, and the views expressed by her are solely her own. This article should not be deemed or construed to be for the purpose of soliciting business for Procter & Gamble Company, nor does Deloitte advocate or endorse the services or products provided by Procter & Gamble.

Deloitte does not practice law nor provide legal services.

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