Susan Butler: The Shaping of a CEO

| March 30, 2011 | 0 Comments

The characteristics of being a CEO include the following: being a visionary, being future focused, change when change is necessary, having a board of directors, making things happen, taking responsibility and investing time – to name a few.

I remember in an early stage of my career, I mentioned that I proactively changed my direction every three to five years. As I look back, I did exactly that. I took responsibility for who I wanted to be and made it happen. I became the CEO of Susan Butler, Inc.




It began in college when I thought I was going into retail to own two stores in Galesburg, Illinois. The good thing is that – because of this vision – I went to Purdue University. They had a Home Economics program which was the best in the country, or so I was told!

In a year that changed. There was an alternative – enroll in the business school to major in economics and math. I really became more focused on my quantitative skills. The rest is history.

My first, big career move was to get out of the technical side of computers (these were my first assignments) and take my career into a more business focused field that complimented my technical skills.

It wasn’t easy, but I “asked for what I wanted.” It was a consulting experience outside of the systems area. The engagement was in customer service, but it involved their computer system as a part of the problem that we were going to be solving. I did it, as the manager of the team, with some of the team members bringing more business-type skills. It was my first experience working with a woman as my client. It was great. I had a new career focus: business plus technology.

Next, I followed my “gut” to get assigned to a “training project” which was going to create a new line of business for Arthur Andersen. It felt right as it would give me an opportunity to be an “intrepreneur” and let me follow my new passion: helping organizations become successful. My peers thought I was crazy, but I did it! As a result, I was promoted to a partner (the first female partner).

Change Management (i.e. the training project) became my trademark for the rest of my career. We were able to sell large engagements, like an Aircraft Maintenance, to the U.S. Navy, because of my credentials in change management.

The people side of any business became very important to me. Is the business organized to achieve their strategy? What is their strategy to develop talent and diversity? How are the skills developed? Basically, how will the company change to be more successful – to deliver more value to the bottom line – with their people and their systems?

This passion of mine led to more senior leadership positions, but there is one that I almost missed out on.

I received a call from the CEO of Andersen Consulting, asking me to be the Managing Partner of the Office of the CEO. I was pretty happy with my global responsibilities and after some thought, I told him that I would like to stay where I was. I didn’t think I needed to say yes just because he was the CEO, and a friend, I might add.

Well, after another call from a friend, I was convinced I had made a mistake, but fortunately, I was able to tell the CEO that I would be happy to take on the responsibility.

Looking back, in this position, I was right in the middle of creating the company known as Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting), bringing it to the public on the NYSE, and creating the new name.

It was a fabulous way to end my 36 year career with Arthur Andersen & Co., Andersen Consulting and now Accenture. It was a great platform to begin my next career: CEO of the SBB Institute for the Development of Women Leaders.

Almost ten years later, I have published two books: Become the CEO of You Inc and Women Count: A Guide to Changing the World. I am a global speaker, I am an executive coach, I publish newsletters, and I engage in many forms of social media. Check out my Web site, www.sbbintstitute.org and my Facebook: Women Count.

My new challenge myself, and for all of you reading my profile is: how are we going to bring equality to women by 2020, the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote?

We all need to work together to make this happen, to make the world better for us, our daughters, and granddaughters, and for everyone. We can do it. Please join the conversation to promote more women into senior leadership positions, to bring about pay equity, to have more women in science, technology, engineering, and math or maybe to help more people in our communities learn to read. Think of how that could change their lives. We need at least 30% or more of women everywhere!

Be the CEO of You, Inc.

Susan Butler

Susan Butler was the first female to work at Arthur Anderson & Co. in 1965. Fourteen years later, she became the first female partner of the company’s consulting organization, Anderson Consulting (now known as Accenture), which is the world’s leading management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing organization. She is the author of the book “Women Count: A Guide to Changing the World” to inspire women around the world to become successful leaders much like herself. It’s time for women to break that glass-ceiling and become women who count.

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