A Personal View on Leadership

April 30, 2019

As prepared for delivery

Bonsoir, tout le monde. Good evening. It is a pleasure to be here at the Atlantic Council. We speak all languages here. We seek to understand each other. And our purpose is to bring people together.

Thank you Ivanka Trump for that wonderful introduction—we share a passion for empowering women around the world.

I would also like to thank Fred Kempe and all the board members of the Atlantic Council. Thank you so much for the job that you do.

And I would like to recognize my fellow honorees:

Let me express my gratitude to Adrienne Arsht, who is such a generous, passionate, and wonderful friend to many of us—and to me in particular.

I would also like to recognize Fred Smith, a former client of mine when I was a lawyer. You are a genius entrepreneur in addition to being an extraordinary human being.

And of course, there is NATO represented by its Deputy Secretary General. I am humbled and privileged to be with such wonderful individuals and such a great organization.

As I was watching the introductory slideshow, I was a bit concerned in the beginning that they would show even more personal photos of me—those that would have shed light on my early professional life: when I was a student, I worked as an assistant fishmonger, backstage wardrobe assistant, lifeguard, and switchboard operator—to name just a few jobs.

Obviously, I was well-prepared to become a good lawyer!

And then, as I was watching those photos, I realized that something was missing—some of those who helped me get here. So, tonight is an opportunity to say thank-you to them.

I would like to start by thanking my mother. I know, everybody does that, but my mother was a bit special. She was a distinguished professor of ancient Greek and Latin and, yes, I had to have my seven years of Latin and five years of ancient Greek!

She was strict, but very sensitive as well. She was an accomplished skier, race car driver, and she was an amazing role model for me and my brothers. She singlehandedly raised the whole family after my father had passed away early on in our lives, and she did that with courage, generosity, and resilience.

These qualities are essential for good leadership.

Thank you to the woman who hired me as a “baby lawyer” at Baker McKenzie. She, too, was an incredible role model, and she taught me three things: how to “dress”, “address,” and “redress.” And I have not forgotten any of those three.

Thank you to the leaders that I have met through my work as Managing Director of the IMF. I am not talking about presidents, prime ministers, princesses and kings or popes. Here I am talking about three special people.

The first one is Maximiliana Taco, who lives in the high plateaus of Peru. Her entire family had been decimated by the terrorists. She did not know how to read or write. And whenever she was earning a bit of money rearing her guinea pigs, and when she was taking money to other places where she could buy something, she would be robbed.

She had the courage, the generosity, and the resilience to educate herself, thanks to a microcredit program in Peru, using a little credit card specific to that microcredit system. And then she taught her neighbors how to use that system and how to combine that with the mobile phone, so that the whole community could farm safely and could be self-sustaining. That is a leader to me.

I met another extraordinary leader in Lombok when I visited last year, a short time after the island had been devastated by an earthquake. That is where I met someone I call the “lady of Lombok”.

Everything had been destroyed. No house left, nothing to harvest, everything was gone. And there she was together with her neighbors, picking up the pieces and rebuilding their community.

She reached out to me, and I thought she would ask what we can do, what the IMF can bring to her community. No, she did not ask, she did not complain. She looked at me and said: “Good luck to you; may you travel safely!”. That is courage, generosity, and resilience.

I also had the opportunity to meet the firefighters who contained the flames at Notre Dame Cathedral. The colonel and his men had been up for over 48 hours, and he was still driven, determined.

He explained to me that a group of 20 young men, all in their early 20’s, had volunteered to climb up the two towers in order to water them from the top, to save a structure that is so much more than just a building. A beloved symbol of peace, tolerance, respect, faith, worship. A place where my parents got married.

That also, to me, is courage, generosity, and resilience. They were risking their lives without hesitation. And the colonel said to me: “If I had been only 20 years younger, I would have been with them too.”

All of these people taught me about leadership.

My American high-school, Holton-Arms, has a wonderful motto: “Inveniam viam aut faciam”— “I will find a way or make one.”

That is also what I like to do at the IMF, leading a group of unbelievably talented and dedicated people who show—every day, everywhere—courage, generosity, and resilience.

Together we try to make a difference in this world. We remind all those we work with that we are in this together.

And we know that those sacrifices that were made by the transatlantic partners 75 years ago, or a century ago, were not in vain.

Those bonds are forever.

Thank you.

IMF Communications Department


Phone: +1 202 623-7100Email: MEDIA@IMF.org