Advent CEO Stephanie DiMarco Stresses Leadership with Conviction

“If there’s one principle I learned, I’ll never be bullied again,” Haas alumna Stephanie DiMarco, BS 79, said of her one big failure as founder and CEO of Advent Software. DiMarco returned to Berkeley-Haas Tuesday, March 29, to speak on leadership as part of the Dean’s Speaker Series.

DiMarco stressed the importance of believing in your gut instincts–and not succumbing to outside pressures–as she described stepping down as CEO in 1999 during the dot-com bubble and then returning after the bubble burst and her company’s stock price plummeted to $6 from $36.

She recalled how during the dot-com bubble Advent was “kind of boring” and she was getting pressure to change the way the company did business, leading her to a “crisis of confidence.” But then after a buying spree, the dot-com bubble burst and the company lost money for the first time in 17 years, prompting DiMarco to return to get Advent back on the right track.

In addition to learning to trust her instincts, DiMarco realized from the experience that the role of leaders is to differentiate between the noise and the signal–the hype and the reality.

DiMarco described several common traits she has observed in leaders, including early 1900s explorer Ernest Shackleton, whose tale of becoming trapped in pack ice in Antarctica she described as one of her favorite leadership stories.

Here are those common traits of leaders:

  • Really great leaders are authentic.
  • Great leaders are consistent.
  • They’re honest.
  • They lead by example.
  • A great leader communicates clearly and often.
  • A leader makes space for people to create and be innovative.
  • A leader is a protector and living example of an organization’s values. Values drive behavior, which is the most important thing in a corporation.

“The most important thing you do as a leader is hire,” DiMarco said.

—Ronna Kelly

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