Katia Beauchamp (co-founder and co-chief executive of Birchbox) in “The Corner Office”

BeauchampAdam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and co-chief executive of Birchbox, a beauty products website. She says it offers a monthly prize to the employee who best demonstrates its leadership principles: $1,000 and a toy gnome named Chomsky.

To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.

Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

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Bryant: Were you in leadership roles when you were a kid?

Beauchamp: I was president of the student body and I was captain of the cheerleading squad. I was a girl scout one year, and I got really frustrated with it because, when I sold cookies, I went door to door. What I didn’t know, because I was naïve, was that moms and dads sell cookies at work for their kids. I was superfrustrated that it wasn’t just about hard work. So I quit the Girl Scouts in protest.

Bryant: You obviously had a lot of drive from a young age.

Beauchamp: I was really raised by my mom, and she would be just as proud of me for crossing the street as me starting a company. She never pushed me. In sixth grade, I told her that I didn’t really need her to sign my report cards anymore. I was a straight-A student, and she said, “O.K., you can sign them.” She was, I think, honestly a bit puzzled by how much I was pushing myself and competing against myself.

Bryant: Were there certain expressions that she would repeat over the years?

Beauchamp: She really encouraged me to talk about how I feel, and to start with “I.” It’s not about what other people do to you, she would say, it’s how you interpret things. She was big on having me taking ownership of how I felt. It was in my control to be happy; my mom instilled that in me. From a very young age, she empowered me to even understand what it meant to control my moods.

Bryant: It is one of those things that separates people — there are those who take ownership of their lives, and those who don’t.

Beauchamp: I totally agree with that. There are drivers, and there are riders. And that’s the thing I feel so strongly about with our team. This is your life. This is your career. I’m here to set you up for success. But you’re driving. I can’t drive all your cars. There are too many of you.

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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here.

His next book, Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation, will also be published by Times Books (January 2014). To contact him, please click here.

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