Annie Longsworth on the one trait every leader needsNovember 19, 2013: 10:09 AM ET
The chief executive of Saatchi and Saatchi's sustainability arm dishes on what drives her.
FORTUNE—Annie Longsworth is the CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi S, the sustainability offshoot of the global communications strategy company Saatchi and Saatchi. Her goal is to "make sustainability irresistible," and her firm has worked with high-profile clients like Coca-Cola, Caesars Entertainment, Kaiser Permanente, and AT&T to develop energy-saving campaigns and programs. After she attended Fortune's Brainstorm Green conference, we got Longsworth's opinion on green business and asked her about her accomplishments. Find out below what characteristic she thinks every leader should possess and why she's reading dystopian young adult books.
1. What green business or person do you admire most? Why?
I have great admiration for [oceanographer and National Geographic explorer-in-residence] Sylvia Earle and her commitment to global ocean health. Despite their size and importance to our world and well-being, oceans are not yet a significant part of the sustainability conversation. As awareness of the vitality of oceans increases, however, Sylvia's role as "ocean ambassador" will be increasingly critical.
2. What is the best advice you ever received?
I love the Edith Wharton quote, "There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it." I think of it as a reminder of how important our collective work in sustainability is, and also that as a leader, I am only as good as my team.
3. What would you do if you weren't working at your current job?
If I wasn't at my current job, and if I had anywhere close to a decent voice—which I don't—I'd be a country singer. And all my sold out tours would be eco-friendly, of course.
4. What is your greatest achievement?
I don't know if it's an achievement since being a mother never really ends, but I am so proud of my son and my daughter. They are my favorite people in the whole world.
5. What is one characteristic that every leader should possess?
I believe every leader should possess curiosity. Being curious—asking questions, listening, reading, exploring, trying new things—enables leaders to cultivate strong teams, deliver cutting edge creative work and build long-term relationships with customers. Curiosity also just makes you a more interesting person and great conversationalist!
6. What is one goal that you would like to accomplish during your lifetime?
I want to know that I contributed, even in some small way, to the slowing down of global warming.
7. What was the last book you read?
I am reading a bunch of young adult fiction right now for a book fair at my son's school, so the most recent book I read was Love in the Time of Global Warming, by Francesca Lia Block. It's a dystopian look at our world after it implodes as a result of our ongoing abuse of the planet as seen through the eyes of a teenager.
8. What was the most important thing you learned in school?
It wasn't in a textbook, but in school I learned that it takes all types of people to make the world go round. We live in a world of opposition right now but I am hopeful that we will regain a sense of respect for human life, varied opinions, and cultural differences.
9. What was your first job?
I worked for a family friend's balloon company for a few years starting when I was about 12. Our biggest job was always New Year's Eve when we blew up hundreds of white, silver, and gold balloons that dropped from hotel ballroom ceilings at midnight.
10. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To breathe underwater.
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