- Oct 7, 2020
“I’m a classic, insecure overachiever.”
Early in her career, Nora Aufreiter, HBA ’81, LLD '18, says she lacked confidence and often felt unsure of herself, particularly in the then male dominated world of consulting.
While she may not have been the most outspoken of her peers, her inner tenacity helped propel her forward.
“Many times when I felt I was failing, I would dig deep in myself and say ‘I’ve got to get myself out of this mess.’ That level of resilience is partially the determination to succeed … but I think it also comes from knowing that no one is going to look after you unless you can look after yourself, and it’s that resilience that says I’m going to get through this.”
That resilience and tenacity led Aufreiter to become the first female senior partner at McKinsey & Company, and the first mother to come back to work as a consultant in Canada after having children.
Aufreiter shared her career journey during the Richard G. Ivey Speaker Series for this year’s virtually assembled HBA1s. In her wide-ranging talk, she spoke about the importance of making your own luck, mentorship, and the three character traits of leaders she values most.
“I didn’t have a lot of role models – I looked more at the characteristics of people that I admired,” said Aufreiter. “What’s more important about a leader is really their character.”
“I respect and admire those who have the courage to be their own self. No one is perfect. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. And those who are courageous enough to show their vulnerabilities, and be authentic are the ones that I think are the leaders to admire. It makes you more approachable. It makes you more human.”
“Integrity is what you do and how you behave when no one is looking. Over the last 10 years, there has been a long slew of CEOs who have lost their roles, not because of the things they did, but often because of how they behaved trying to cover it up. Integrity stays with you all the time, not just when you are in the classroom, not just when you are at the office, it’s how you behave throughout.”
“Leaders that I admire have a commitment to their cause that is all-in…I’m a big believer in servant leadership. Any leader that is going to think more of themselves rather than of their constituents is not going to be someone that you are going to trust.”
In closing, Aufreiter offered insights and reflections from her life outside of work. Specifically, she stressed the importance of maintaining strong personal partnerships, and also paying it forward to your community, noting that you get as much as you give.
“The world needs people to step up to their civic leadership opportunities, and I would encourage you to find something that you are passionate about, and help do something about it.”