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Christine Lagarde has been head of the International Monetary Fund for three years now, and The Washington Post sat down to interview her about her work thus far. As we were reading, and watching, her interview, one thing became tremendously clear: we have a girl crush on Christine Lagarde. As my editor aptly noted, and I agree: "anyone who runs the IMF and carries a Kelly bag is a-ok with me."
Before she was Managing Director of the IMF, Lagarde was an attorney at Baker & McKenzie, where she later "became the Chairman of the Global Executive Committee of Baker & McKenzie in 1999, and subsequently Chairman of the Global Strategic Committee in 2004."
As law associates, we can learn a lot from her experiences rising through the ranks of BigLaw. Let's take a look at where she stands on issues ranging from leadership, and women.
When Lagarde was a teenager, she studied in the United States and spent time with an American family. She recounts what her "American father" told her: "Whenever I had tough times, he would send me a little note or give me a call and he would say, 'Don't let the bastards get you.'" She goes on to explain that what she understands it to mean is, "Hang on with the work that you are doing, and just don't give up. Stand up." That perseverance, to her, is the best leadership advice she could give.
On Women Leaders
Lagarde notes what many in the academic and media circles have been talking about for some time: in times of crisis, women are placed in leadership positions to clean up messes. She had the crises of the former IMF leader's scandalous departure, as well as the Euro problems to fix. (Known as the "Glass Cliff", see also, Mary Barra at GM and Marissa Mayer at Yahoo!). She says: I have a theory that women are generally given space and appointed to jobs when the situation is tough." She adds, "In times of crisis, women eventually are called upon to sort out the mess, face the difficult issues and be completely focused on restoring the situation."
On Changes to the IMF
As far as the one thing she'd like to see changed, it parallels the calls for diversity on corporate boards across the United States. She says, "I would very much like it if there were more women on the board. At the moment I have a board where all the executive directors are male, and I think that is wrong."
On Her Career Path
Interestingly, Lagarde says she "never, never had a career plan." Instead, she attributes her successful career to "circumstances, of meeting people, of being called, of being drafted, of taking on the job and rising to the circumstances when it was needed." If we should take a lesson from that, it's the importance of networking and building professional relationships.
If you have the time to read the full interview, we definitely recommend it. Otherwise, here are some highlights:
Editor's Note, June 24, 2015: This post was first published in June, 2014. It has since been updated.