Episode 1: Maggie Wilderotter

Janice Ellig, CEO and founder of Ellig Group, sits down with real leaders in this series of game-changing conversations, bespoke to fellow champions of change. Heralded by Bloomberg Businessweek as one of “The World’s Most Influential Headhunters,” Janice is often consulted for her expertise and her commitment to gender parity, inclusion, and diversity.

Episode 1: Reimagining CEO and Board Leadership: A Success Story

Maggie Wilderotter’s corporate career included an outstanding decade long track record as CEO/Chair of Frontier Communications where she grew revenues from $1 billion to over $10 billion. Her achievements are particularly notable given she succeeded in the male dominated telecommunications industry where women were and are underrepresented in the C-Suite and in the boardroom. Maggie has served on 32 Public and Private boards starting at the age of 28 where very few women held board seats at that age and time, and even today women hold only 21% of seats on the S& P 500. Please enjoy this episode of Leadership Reimagined!

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Janice introduces Maggie Wilderotter who shares her story of commitment, growth and the power behind building your brand: [0:38]

  • Chief Executive Officer of Frontier Communications from November, 2004 to April, 2015, and then Executive Chairman until April, 2016
  • Maggie has served on 32 public and private boards starting at the age of 28, where very few women held board seats that age and time, and even today, women hold only 21% of seats on the S&P 500.
  • Maggie and her husband Jay own and run Wilderotter Vineyard and Grand Reserve Inn; Janice joined Maggie at the Inn and can say firsthand it’s absolutely fabulous

A family with good values, strong work ethic and smart collaboration [2:16]

  • “I’ve had the blessing of growing up in a household of all girls. My father and mother taught all of us that your education matters, a service to others matter, always doing your personal best, and that there’s no such thing as failure, you just haven’t figured it out yet”
  • “…every Saturday we would have a job jar that had our chores for the week and we had to complete those chores in order to get our allowance the following Saturday”
  • Late evenings at home, when her father returned from work, included honest discussions around his workday. “He really took a lot of that mystery out of work and what it meant.”
  • At the age of 9, she participated in the Jerry Lewis telethon. Maggie reached out to the White House, and they called her back!

“…we were doing take your daughters to work way before it was vogue” [3:53]

Maggie Wilderotter, (Former CEO Frontier Communications) and Denise Williams (Former CEO Campbells Soup): Two sisters at the helm [5:02]

  • They are very close, being only 13 months apart, Maggie is very proud of her sister
  • “…for about a four to five year window we overlapped and we were the only two siblings that ran Fortune 500s in the United States. So, hats off to my mother who calls herself mother superior”

From humble beginnings to the power of networking [9:40]

  • Growing up in New Jersey, attending college in Massachusetts, then traveling out west to California with her new husband
  • Maggie responded to a newspaper ad for a position as an accounts receivables supervisor in a “fledgling new industry called cable television”
  • Fast forward 12 years, she became the leader of the US, European and Canadian operations
  • Through building relationships, networking and working to deliver for customers and serve those customers, Maggie grew the US market share from 15 to 20 % to 85 %. She was instrumental in giving the company its competitive edge in its industry.

“…there are times in my career where I get out of my comfort zone and I do something totally different than my background has prepared me for, and they’re the biggest high growth times in my career” [13:30]

Janice makes the following statement with deep adoration “So by the time you’re in your early 40s, you have been with small companies, you’ve been with large companies, you’ve been CEO of Wink. You take it public, you sell it, you go to Microsoft and then you’re ready to be CEO of another company, Frontier” [16:41]

Maggie has vision as she sets her sights on Frontier “It was a turnaround situation and it had good bones though.” And she was right, taking it from $1Billion in revenue to over $10 Billion in revenue, leaving the company in a profitable state when exiting. [17:54]

Women in leadership; diversity in the boardroom; Having an impact[18:48]

  • When Maggie joined Frontier she was 1 of 2 women in senior level positions. Within 2 years, 50% of her operating leaders with P&L responsibility were women, and 50% of her direct reports were women. Additionally replacing 10 of the 12 board members; five women on the board, three people of color.
  • Maggie as she discusses board leadership “Boards are a lot more accountable. They have to be more transparent, they have to be broader in their skillsets and their decision making capability…It’s not ceremonial, it’s real work, and it’s rolling up your sleeves and doing what’s right.”
  • Maggie leads by example; helping other women. “…I always had one hand out in front of me moving myself forward, and I always had my other hand behind me yanking another woman along with me.” [29:42]

“Networking is working…people are the best source of learning” [31:42]

Getting to parity by 2025 [34:17]

  • Maggie is also co-chair of the Breakfast of Corporate Champions event in New York City. A biennial event hosted by the Womens Forum of NYC celebrating S&P 500 & Fortune 1000 companies have more than 30% women on their board of directors
  • The next BoCC event is November 7, 2019 at Cipriani on 42nd street in NYC

For the full podcast transcript, please click here.