Sandra L. Kurtzig (Kenandy) in “The Corner Office”

Adam 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 Sandra L. Kurtzig, chairwoman and C.E.O. of Kenandy, a software management firm based in Redwood City, California. She says young companies are tempted to enter partnerships that look attractive but aren’t right for them. “Don’t Chase Everything That Shines.”

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

Photo credit: Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

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Tell me about your approach to leadership.

Kurtzig: I think that one of the most important things in working with anybody, whether you’re the boss or the person being managed, is that you have to have mutual respect. I’ve always been very open and down to earth. I’ve never taken myself very seriously. I show self-confidence, and I think that if you don’t show self-confidence, no one is going to buy from you and no one’s going to want to work with you.

I’m transparent, and I ask people on a regular basis what they like about their job and what they don’t like about their job. What can we be doing better? In your previous job, how did you do it? What worked better and what worked worse than what we are doing now? I’m constantly asking people for their opinions.

A key thing is surrounding myself with people that, No. 1, I respect, and No. 2, I like. Then I ask their opinions and really listen to them. Two-way conversations are an important ingredient for building a company. Nowadays, I hear that so many younger people who are starting companies are so used to working on the Internet that they tend to send only e-mails and communicate with their screens more than they communicate with people around them. You need to interact with people and not just your computers.

Bryant: How has your leadership style evolved over time?

Kurtzig: I’m more self-confident now, and I make decisions faster. I know what information I need because I’ve been there, done that before. I’m also more willing to change the decisions and modify them so that we get to the end faster.

I don’t run after “shiny objects.” That’s a mistake that a lot of people make in running a company, especially in starting one. They tend to get a lot of opportunities from people who want to partner with them. And these are just shiny objects, because there are very few partners that end up being right for your company. So I’m much more selective. If I hear something, I’m very quick to think, ‘Hey, that’s a shiny object; let’s get back to work.’ I think that’s what’s so distracting to a lot of companies — they see a big customer or some other distraction, and they spend too much time on it and they lose their way.

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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. To contact him, please click here.

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