A Conversation With Dallas Morning News Columnist Cheryl Hall

Interview with Cheryl Hall
Interview with Cheryl Hall

Cheryl Hall who is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News business section. Cheryl has been covering the new for four decades and entered the field when there were very few women in the newsroom. A native of Texas she has lived in Japan, Washington, D.C., Louisiana and has her bachelors of fine arts from Southern Methodist University.

AE: I read your article “Self-centered bosses are wreaking havoc in the workplace”  and I completely agree with what you wrote and Robert’s assertions about bosses succumbing to the me-first route to success, what are your thoughts on the subject?

CH: There are many good, sharing, caring bosses. I deal with them in The Dallas Morning News’ Top 100 Places to Work competition.

But others are just plain selfish. They guard information as power. They rarely share credit. And they pay themselves multiples of those who are actually doing the heavy lifting.

On the whole, though, I’d like to think leadership in general is improving.

AE: Throughout my career I have had both male and female bosses and in my personal experience I have seen some differences between the two, any thoughts or personal experiences?

CH: All of my bosses have had mostly strengths and fewer shortcomings. But I can’t say that they fell into gender stereotypes. I had a female boss who would say the most insensitive things, but she was deeply caring once you got past that.

AE: In your article Robert says that “Leadership is getting harder because of size, scale, geographic reach and technology” but there is no mention about how we create leaders, do you think this weighs into the equation at all?

CH: Corporations tend to reward the self-centered powerbrokers. There should be more emphasis on promoting those with clear communicative skills who want to lead by example.

AE: Women holding positions of leadership, especially at the executive level is still relatively new, do you think it is harder for women to be leaders and if so, why is that?

CH: The problem has many roots. One is that strong women are often regarded in derogatory terms while men are seen as flexing their strengths. Women as a group still put family first more often than men and may not have that aggressive desire to succeed if it means creating a work/life imbalance. But I believe these generalizations are beginning to equalize.

AE: Robert said that “We desperately need “touchy-feely” leaders who value relationship building…” do you think women in business shy away from that because they don’t want to be perceived as weak?

CH: Some do. But there are some really wonderful examples of women leaders who make touchy-feely an enormously effective leadership tool — think Colleen Barrett at Southwest Airlines. Confidence in knowing who you are is key.

AE: A female colleague of mine attended a seminar on women in leadership where they said women tend to not have the same opportunities when it comes to role models and mentors, what do you think about that?

CH: I’ve enjoyed numerous mentors, mostly men. I did not have many female role models. I went to work for The News 43 years and there were very few women in any kind of leadership role in Dallas.

There is another issue. Women and minorities are often pulled in to be mentors — especially by professional firms — which pulls them off of billable hours and a step behind in climbing the organizational ladder.

I don’t believe there should be gender separation when it comes to mentoring. I have mentored numerous young men and women.

AE: What has been your greatest success as a leader?

CH: When I was business editor, I once had a successful showdown with Dave Smith our executive sports editor who was trying to usurp office space from the business department. I literally stood with my arms folded between the last sports desk and the first business desk and told him he couldn’t have a single carpet square more.

AE: Have there been any women leader role models for you?

CH: Louise Raggio who created modern day family law in Texas and gave married women the right to conduct business without written consent from her husband. She was smart, witty, went through law school when she was pregnant, stayed active well into her senior years.

And she “played” being a female to enormous advantage.

AE: What do you think is the biggest mistake a woman leader can make?

CH: Letting herself succumb to what she thinks will be perceived as good leadership instead of building on her inherent strengths.

AE: Do you think that women leaders have the opportunity to impact culture within an organization differently than their male counterparts?

CH: Every individual brings something different to the table. Women are often more inclusive and less combative. Look at the difference in toys of choice.

AE: We clearly have a way to go with women in leadership positions, what do you think needs to happen to level the field and/or get more women into those positions?

CH: Wow, if I knew that I’d be an over-paid CEO somewhere.

AE: Is there a woman leader you admire?

CH: Ebby Halliday. Without reservation.

AE: If you could give young women starting out their careers one piece of advice what would that be?

CH: It would be the same advice that I’d give a young man: Follow your heart but be realistic. After that: Be willing to do menial tasks that you might feel are below your skill set. Pay attention to detail. Treat others as you expect to be treated. And remember, a smile costs you nothing.