Nancy Dubuc (chief executive of A&E Networks) in “The Corner Office”

22-CORNER-mothAdam 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 Nancy Dubuc, chief executive of A&E Networks, has made her mark on cable television by taking big risks. But for every success, Ms. Dubuc says, she has learned from important failures.

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

Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

Tell me about when you were younger. What were some early lessons for you?

I grew up in Bristol, R.I. I had grandparents and great-grandparents nearby, and because I was the only grandchild until I was 12, I was the center of a lot of adult attention.

I’ve only come to realize this within the last couple of years, but because I was part of so many different households, I was able to be a slightly different child in each one of them. That openness to change was ingrained in me at a very young age. I think it helps me to this day, because I can walk into a meeting, size it up and pivot. That’s not something you can teach.

Were you in leadership roles in high school?

My interests were more extracurricular, more external and more social than they were academic. My birthday is also in December, so I was one of the older kids. That meant I learned social leadership early on. I was always just much better in a team and work environment than I was in a classroom environment.

How have your parents influenced your leadership style?

The directness of my mother is clearly in my voice. Her opinion is always a very strong opinion at the dining room table. I think she empowered me to have the same drive.

My stepfather and I had long drives to school together, and I was never allowed to listen to my radio stations. It was either NPR or we would talk. One of the things that he used to say to me often, and I’ve taken this with me, is “Don’t worry about it, because it’s not going to turn out that way anyway.”

I don’t think you understand that when you’re 16 or 17 years old, but now as I look back on it, so much of what we worry about is the outcome, and outcomes rarely turn out the way you think they are going to. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have patience and discipline and drive during the process, but only thinking about the outcome is in some ways very singular, because the outcome might be something different, and it might be better.

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

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