To talk to Cindi Leive about careers is to wish Glamour’s editor in chief were your boss—if not your best friend. She’s not just warm, funny and smart. She also telegraphs a big heart, the vibe that she cares and wants to help—women in general and those she personally knows.
It’s partly Leive’s candidness that conveys this generous spirit. Case in point: she freely admits that the secret to her confidence when she was 32 and at her first helm (at Self) was, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know!”
But it’s also the alacrity with which Leive shares her experiences and advice. She says she asked a lot of questions as a rookie editor in chief, and that willingness to ask, along with her vision for the magazine, helped her to succeed—and two years later take on big sister publication Glamour. “Asking questions always helps,” Leive says. “I’ve learned that it’s not a sign of weakness but of leadership and strength.” Here, more of her story and the wisdom she has gained.
On Aiming for the Top Job
“I didn’t go into magazines thinking of myself as an executive type. But when I was a midlevel editor, a friend told me of an opening for editor in chief and that I should put my hat in the ring. I did…and I didn’t get the job, but I appreciate how my friend gave me that tap—it makes me think of the way female candidates need to be asked before they’ll run for office. And now I try to tap other women the same way, telling them when I hear of a high-level job that I think they could get.”
On Being Courageous
“Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing a number of very cool, accomplished women, and the main thing I’ve seen is that none of them are super-human steely or without nerves and vulnerabilities. Many talked about being nervous in their careers—not just in the past but in the present, too. My point is that it’s easy to look at women doing courageous things, and think, oh, they’re another breed or species. But they’re not different from the rest of us. They’re just not waiting for some mythical future time when they won’t be nervous. Being brave means doing something when you are nervous.”
On Speaking Up
“Asking for something—a big project, more responsibility, a promotion—is not going to guarantee you get it. But not asking usually guarantees that you won’t get it. Years ago, when I was a junior editor, I pitched a heavy-duty political story that I wanted to write. But in the meeting, other writers, award-winning writers, were discussed for it. I went back to my desk, and at first I stewed: The experienced just get more experience and the rest of us sit in our cubes. But then I wrote a memo to the editor in chief listing all the reasons I thought I should write the story, and you know what? She walked the memo back to me and said, ‘Anyone who wants something that badly should get it.’”
On Dressing for an Important Presentation
“You have to be comfortable. You’re never going to give a great presentation if you’re tugging on your skirt or sucking in your stomach or wobbling on your shoes. Wear what feels like you. If you’re not sure about something, take a mirror selfie to see how it looks.”
On Unwinding after a Stressful Day
“I have two great kids who are absolutely uninterested in what I do all day. They take me out of my head.”