- Susan Lyne is a venture capitalist who has had leadership roles at Disney, Martha Stewart Omnimedia, and Gilt Groupe, among other places.
- She said she learned how to be a leader as the founder of a film magazine in the mid-’80s.
- It taught her that responsibility means not constantly seeking approval for every decision she made, a lesson she considers a turning point.
In 1986, Susan Lyne was a journalist who had just launched a new film magazine, Premiere.
Her cofounder was John Evans, the former publisher of the Village Voice who she met when she worked there.
While Lyne had been in leadership roles before, she had never been at the very top. And this threw her for a loop.
As she explained in a recent interview for Business Insider’s podcast “Success! How I Did It“: “I didn’t really think about it being a huge change until I got into it, and I realized that I was constantly looking around for somebody I could show what I was doing to — because I still wanted approval, I still wanted somebody to say, ‘Yes, this is good. Go.'”
Lyne would go on to have an impressive career that included running ABC’s primetime lineup, leading Martha Stewart’s media empire, and serving as CEO of Gilt Groupe. Today she’s the founding partner of the venture capital firm BBG.
But not before she had one of the biggest turning points in her career and learned how to be a leader at Premiere magazine in the late 1980s.
The lesson she learned is applicable to anyone given the responsibility to make a major decision, regardless of whether or not they’re an executive.
“It took me really, I would say, the first year to get really comfortable with the idea that I was the final say,” Lyne said.
She explained that she tried to make Evans the final say. “I sent him over stories and he would ignore them. I finally sent him my editor’s letter, and he called me up and he said, ‘Susan, don’t ever send me stuff. This is your magazine. I don’t buy a dog and bark for it.’ It was his way of saying, ‘This is yours and you’ve got to own it.'”
It registered with her that other people don’t necessarily have access to better information — and that even having access to more information around making a decision won’t lead to a better result. At some point, you need to trust yourself.
“It was definitely tough love,” Lyne said of Evans’ advice, “but it was a useful thing for me to hear. It was a turning point for me.”
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