Business is Personal for WETA President and CEO Sharon Percy Rockefeller

March 20, 2009

WETA President and CEO Sharon Percy Rockefeller discussed leadership and public broadcasting with MBA students at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business March 18. The conversation was part of the school's Business Leaders Breakfast Series.

Rockefeller said she learned leadership lessons and the value of hard work early in life. At age three, she began taking care of her younger brother after her mother passed away. "Leadership forms in adverse situations," she said.

She credits her father, U.S. Senator and Bell & Howell Chairman Charles Percy, with teaching her how to lead with a personal touch. "Looking at many of the biggest companies today, you see that leadership has become separated from employees, especially in terms of salary scale," she said. "Leaders often lose touch with their employees. I remember as a child I would stand with my father as he greeted every single employee in a receiving line at Christmas. Leaders are responsible for making sure they are seen and known as real persons."

Rockefeller cited the importance of corporate transparency, of helping employees reach their potential, and of hiring trustworthy people who believe in the company's vision. "Every leader brings a certain set of skills and interests to the position," she explained. "You have to find people who can help make up for your shortcomings and bring the company where it needs to go."

Rockefeller also talked about programming, funding cycles, content management, and the work involved in putting a television show on the air. Ultimately, she credits her success to her relationships with employees. "You have an obligation to explain what you are doing, especially when it involves public funds," she said. "When we made staff cuts, I made myself available to all our employees to answer their questions and explain the decision. All business is personal."