Anne C. Toulouse | Gagen MacDonald

Insights & Events / Let Go & Lead / LG&L Interview

Anne C. Toulouse

Aug 06, 2015

Fast Facts


Chicago, IL

Number of employees:


Centennial Anniversary:

July 15, 2016

Number of years in current role:

1 year

Job responsibilities:

Global brand-building programs including advertising, digital media, corporate identity, brand sponsorship, merchandise and activities for the upcoming centennial.

Number of years with the company:

25 years

Previous experiences:

Vice President of Employee Communications

Questions & Answers

When you first took on your current role, did you feel it was important to stay with the vision of your predecessor, or bring in a renewed vision of your own?:

I would say it was a mix of both. My predecessor left the organization in a strong, healthy position and I did not want to lose sight of the vision and undo what he had put into place. Rather than starting from scratch, I wanted to evolve the organization and deliver on our commitments for our centennial year ’ which starts July 15, 2015. I stepped in where I saw gaps or opportunities, and provided clarity as needed.

One area that I did see a need for change was the operating rhythm so that it fit my style. It’s important when you take a new position to understand your business challenge – are you in a startup, turnaround, reorganization, or sustaining success situation? I am fortunate to be in the latter.

In managing the Boeing brand, how do you balance the gap between public perception and the company reality?:

It’s all about making sure the way you articulate your brand is sincere. Internally and externally your brand promise needs to match the reality of the experience. Consistency and making sure everyone is on the same page is important – at times all consuming, but worth the effort.

How would you define a leader?:

A leader is:

  • Courageous, knowing when to jump in versus when to sit back
  • Strategic and charts the direction of the group.
  • A visionary and develops people every step of the way
  • Observant ’ she identifies gaps and issues, then assists when necessary
  • Inspirational
  • Consistent by living his values every day
  • Authentic
  • Effective

Strong leadership overall is a key differentiator for any company.

Have you noticed differences in leading as a woman versus your observations of men in leadership roles?:

To me, it’s not about gender difference in leadership, but rather a difference in leadership style overall. The way one chooses to approach leadership depends on the individual’s personal foundations.

How do you decide when to lead and when to manage?:

There is a balance between leading and managing where results matter. It often depends on the project complexity, the sophistication of the team and the outcome desired. My goal is to hire great and smart people and make sure they understand our goals and objectives, as well as how they will be measured. You have to trust your team members. Having said that, there are projects where it’s not so much about micro-managing, but more about determining the places where to lean in and ensure the team is on the right path.

As a leader and communicator, how do you determine what’s best to say and do in certain situations?:

First, it’s important to know who you are spending time with, to understand what motivates them and how to connect with them. I remind myself to ask a lot of open-ended questions at all levels. If you attempt to solve today’s issue with yesterday’s solution it could work out, but it may not necessarily produce the best result. I repeatedly ask if there is more that can be done. Stay fluid by making the collective group stronger through a diversity of perspectives.

How did you find your “voice” as a leader?:

My voice was informed by the diverse perspectives I’ve run into, the different people I’ve encountered, and the unique experiences I have had over time. There’s great value in being true to yourself and being an authentic leader. Being out of alignment with your authenticity is as ineffective as wearing a wool coat, turning it inside out, and expecting it to be comfortable.

How have your experiences shaped you into the leader that you are today?:

I keep telling people that by the time I have it all figured out, it’ll be time to retire! I’m continually trying to learn from my experiences, my colleagues and others ’ hoping that I’m improving along the way. I will say that being a mother has made me into a more understanding leader. Even though my natural style is to get in and get results, I realized that approach can cause chaos, so I have become more inclusive and collaborative over time. Breaking glass is not required to get results, and there are great advantages to being more deliberate and thoughtful. Again, being authentic to myself and being willing to say “I messed up” is essential.

How do you let go and lead?:

I ask a lot of questions and spend a great deal of time with the team, which allows me to feel comfortable knowing that I can indeed let go and focus on pressing strategic opportunities or challenging issues. It is about trusting people to handle their responsibilities while monitoring their progress and being willing to help when and where it’s needed.

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