Interview With Cynthia Flanders: A Fearless Leader

Cynthia Flanders, Manage Fearlessly

Meet Cynthia Flanders of Manage Fearlessly. Flanders has decades of real-world management experience that gave her a critical insight about herself early on. One of Flanders passions is supporting younger people in finding the right path, whether that means discovering a dream job, or helping them see that they’re on the wrong road altogether.

In this exclusive interview with WashingtonExec, we spoke to Flanders about Manage Fearlessly and her career.  She gave us advice about good leadership and decision making.  Also, she provided us with her prediction for upcoming issues in the  government contracting community.

WashingtonExec: How did Manage Fearlessly start?

Cynthia Flanders: After retiring from Bank of America, I realized what I missed most was coaching and developing people.  When I was a new manager, I received no real training or guidance and had to learn management skills from my mistakes. We created Manage Fearlessly to give new managers real world, practical advice and a community of peers to share their challenges.

“A strong leader needs to have personal courage”

WashingtonExec: What advise can you give to leaders who are struggling to make money while trying to not cut resources or staff?

Cynthia Flanders: In a challenging economy, owners and leaders need to make the tough decisions and often that means letting people go. It’s better to manage a reduced workforce than none at all. As for other resources, you need to assess the “must haves” from the “want to haves”. In a downturn, those things may be different.

WashingtonExec: What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the government contracting community within the next couple years?

Cynthia Flanders: Cuts and delays in the Defense budgets will be challenging to those firms with high dependence on traditional weapons and DOD programs.  But I see this challenge as an opportunity for smaller and mid size firms in cybersecurity, unmanned vehicles and other non-DOD related fields.  These companies will and already have become attractive acquisition targets to the large consolidators needing to diversity.

WashingtonExec: Who do you think would is a better leader, a risk taker who will make investments and follow his/her guts or a more conservative leader who stays consistent with the companies goals and hopes everything will eventually pan out?

Cynthia Flanders: I’m a big believer that a strong leader needs to have personal courage.  Personal courage may mean taking a strategic risk for the company or it may mean challenging the status quo. If more leaders had questioned and challenged the Financial Service Industry CEOs, we would not have faced the economic crisis of the last few years.  Strong leaders surround themselves with diversity of thought, not people like themselves that can only agree with the existing path.

WashingtonExec: What is the best advise that you have ever received?

Cynthia Flanders: Don’t sweat the small stuff, save your energy and focus for the things that matter- both in life and work.

WashingtonExec: Who do you look up too?

Cynthia Flanders: Gloria Steinem and other feminist leaders of that time paved the way for women like myself to be able to enjoy a successful career.  When I started out in banking in the mid 1970s, there were no women in corporate banking.  She helped opened many doors for many women and made it okay to push the limits of what had been acceptable practices in business.

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