Jacki Zehner on Leadership


Jacki Zehner combines her passion for philanthropy and business. She was the first female trader to become partner at Goldman Sachs.” This month, Jacki spoke with Porsche on leadership.

Click to watch the interview with Jacki Zehner

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I want to be with people who have vision, people who have energy, and with people who have the ability to move others forward to make positive change in the world.

So I joined Goldman Sachs in 1988. I was an analyst and did that for less than a year, then was invited to take on a role on the trading desk. As you can imagine is was mostly men. And as the first woman, especially in that field, I was asked to do a lot. I loved it. I loved being asked to give speeches, recruiting and being somewhat of that poster child. “We have a woman trader. Look you can be one!”

It was such an important time for business. When you think about it, women were just coming into the workplace and ascending to leadership roles. Companies then and companies now were really thinking about how to bring out their best talent, how to develop leadership.

Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, describes Jacki’s leadership style this way: “Because Jacki combines her passion for business, for philanthropy and for the arts all together, it’s really allowed her to connect with a lot of different people, such as the Sundance Institute. She clearly understands how media can influence many, many people.”

Jacki continues… So the leadership development work I did at Goldman just lit me up. It was so exciting to learn and benchmark with other companies to study leadership. What I also realized, when I ended up leaving Goldman in 2002, is that you take your leadership with you. It’s not something that’s a role. It’s not a title. The CEO is a title. A leader, and it’s such a privilege to ever be called that, is so much deeper. It’s what you are and not what you do.

Madeline adds, “She’s so passionate, she’s a great listener and she’s very creative and strategic in problem solving. All of those qualities role up into why she’s such a wonderful leader.”

Women Moving Millions is a community of trail-blazing philanthropists that are using their money, but more than that—their time, their treasure, their influence, their knowledge—to make a difference in the lives of girls and women.

I seek out amazing young women leaders who are really trying to catalyze change. You create change by having people hold on to a set of beliefs, and willing that change together. It’s at the core of humanity. It’s a shared vision for what you want in the world, whether it’s a company, whether it’s to have latrines in your community, whether it’s to have an opportunity to send your daughter to school. It’s all the same. It’s getting people to share a vision for the world and move in that direction together.

Because nothing moves forward without someone who can take people with them—forward. There’s no substitute. There’s no substitute for great leadership.

I think at the core of that is someone who has a vision and helps to move people towards that vision.

Catalytic Women is honored to be part of Jacki’s leadership. She serves on our Advisory Board.