IMF chief: ‘When it’s bad, you call women to the rescue’

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Christine Lagarde, who is president of the European Central Bank, credits her imagination and creativity to growing up around books and her strength and discipline to the years she spent as a synchronized swimmer. How did these experiences shape Lagarde into the global leader she is today?

As she explains in this conversation with Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney, (which was conducted when she still headed the International Monetary Fund), a leader must have confidence, energy, and, most importantly, generosity. “If you are not a generous person,” Lagarade says, “then you’re going to think about yourself. You’re going to stay within your comfort zone. You’re going to guard against adversity or the unknown.”

Though this advice holds for leaders regardless of gender, Lagarde has specific advice for female leaders. She says she has noticed time and time again that women are called on to rescue situations when they turn bad. But she also thinks those are the moments when women can have an impact: “When the situation is difficult, when it’s really challenging, when the financial situation is really poor, when budgets have been blown: Then there are opportunities for women. I’ve always encouraged women to say yes in these situations,” she says. “You can only move it up.”