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its showtime april 23 2011

its showtime april 23 2011 - Caryl M Stern the president...

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Caryl M. Stern, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Fund for Unicef, says that her background in the theater has also helped her as a leader, because “you need to be able to get up and deliver good news and bad news.” April 23, 2011 It’s Showtime, So Take That Deep Breath By ADAM BRYANT This interview with  Caryl M. Stern , president and chief executive of the U.S. Fund for Unicef, was conducted and  condensed by  Adam Bryant.   Q.   Do you remember the first time you were somebody’s boss?   A.  My first real job where I supervised people was right after graduate school. I worked for  Northwestern University   and helped run its noncredit continuing education program. I was the director of it, and it was a really fun job — a  little bit like herding cats because I had to hire all of these people to teach who didn’t normally teach.  I hired the best artists in town to teach painting classes, and all the best musicians to teach music classes. I hired a  bunch of chefs to teach cooking classes. When I took over the program, it was about 50 or 60 courses. By the time I left  about two and a half years later, it was closer to 400 courses.  Q.  Was that an easy transition for you into that kind of role?   A.  At that point in my life, it never dawned on me I couldn’t do something. I was 22. It was fun. I would go to bars and  listen to bands and figure out which would be the best one to teach a course on how you get your band into a bar. So  by the time Saturday night rolled around and I’d walk into any club, I knew every musician. I knew artists and I knew  athletes. It never dawned on me that I couldn’t get access to somebody.  Q.   What about in college?  
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A.  I went to  Westchester Community College , where I ended up in a theater group. That experience exposed me to a  whole new world.  Q.  Were you on stage or behind the stage?   A.  I was the costume designer on a couple of shows, and then I had the lead in a couple of shows, too. But then I went  more into the costume design side and ultimately decided I really liked the artwork and became an art major.  Q.  You’re one of several C.E.O.’s I’ve interviewed with a background in theater.  A.  I’m not surprised. You need to be able to get up and deliver the good news and the bad news. It’s just that same  feeling before you go on stage, and you take that deep breath. In my organization now, with several hundred people  working for me, I have to be that policeman and that show leader at the same time. So what better training is there?  Q.  What were some early leadership lessons for you?
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