Elda Muller - Editorial Council Board, Editora Abril
The Conscious Leader
By Cynthia Good
As the highest-ranking woman at Brazil's largest publishing empire, Abril, Elda Muller gets the coveted corner office on the 13th floor. She’s the only woman on the editorial council for the multi-million dollar company, which distributes millions of magazines every month and employs 900 journalists.
"I have been very successful in my career," says Muller, who became the company's first female supervisor in 2000, in charge of all 50 or so publications. She has worked with the organization for 33 years.
"I have a big ego, but I'm always watching it,” says Muller. Here, she tells Little PINK Book the secret to working with all those men, her biggest career risks and how 40 days on an ashram made her a better leader and a happier person.
PINK: What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
Elda Muller: When you launch a new title, you’re not sure if it’s going to work. You never know what’s going to happen, but life is risky. I’m a big believer in intuition and listening to instincts. It’s important to stop and listen to your heart. It sounds a little naïve, but I think it’s necessary.
PINK: What's your success secret?
EM:I work with the best journalists. They have a lot of things I don't have. But I have perspective. I can connect things. I am alert and understand what to do at this moment. This is my secret – consciousness. Humankind needs more of it and more compassion. Then we'll make choices that are more sustainable.
How do you navigate being the only woman on Abril's council?
EM:It is a huge company in Brazil and South America, and I am the only woman in this council. Men like to fight, so it's a battle. If you want to make a point you can't shout because they won't pay attention. I observe and wait for the right moment.
PINK: What’s the biggest issue facing professional women today?
EM:When women reach a position with a lot of visibility, of course we would like to have our voice respected in the environment that is usually dominated by men. Women are passionate. We want more. We dream of being accomplished in work and in life. We have many important things that deserve our energy. Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with both sides. This is a huge challenge, trying to keep the perfect balance. Work’s just part of it.
PINK: How do you balance?
EM:I try to focus. When I’m working, I’m just working. I don’t think about anything else. I am trying to be completely present in the moment. If you try to do too many things, you lose energy. When I’m out of the office I do things that restore my energy. I meditate and keep silent for some time during the day. When you see things getting crazy, just stop and try to reconnect. This works for me. And I do yoga two or three times a week. I’ve done yoga for 15 years. I have a house by the beach. To be close to nature is wonderful. I read and do things with my family and friends. I try to be in touch with things that heal me.
PINK: Do those things help you combat stress?
EM:The biggest danger is the inability to observe what is going on. That is why stress invades you. When you have the capacity to see your reaction, it’s easier to deal with things than simply to abandon yourself to the emotions.
PINK: What was the hardest part about raising two children while being so dedicated to work?
EM:Everything I did was for their sake, for our family. When you’re in tune with yourself, your children can feel it. They are successful and responsible today and always felt I loved them. They have their professions and they’re accomplished. I’m very proud of them. I never felt I was abandoning my children. I don’t have to be side-by-side with something to be part of it.
PINK: What sparked your interest in spirituality and meditation?
EM:Since I was a child, I always loved India and mythology. I was 10 years old and we had a collection of encyclopedias our parents used to buy. I would read everything about Greeks and Romans. Then, five years ago I was invited to India, to an ashram. For me it was a milestone, a very important moment. From that time on I understood and could read and study and learn things that I would have never learned.
PINK: What did you learn from the ashram?
EM:This is the problem of our time: to calm the mind. When you're relaxed, things are easier and better because you can see. We are all linked together. I must pay attention to what you need from me and to the sacredness of every meeting.
PINK: How would you describe your leadership style?
EM:I’m very intuitive. I used to be in charge of creative teams. I try to be totally focused on people, because we can bet on them. Especially in my profession, the only things that matter are people because we need their talent, their capacity for feeling and creating. I try to be clear in my message and address what really matters instead of being judgmental and giving direction all the time. I like to give space to my team. It makes me happy to see them feeling responsible and comfortable with their decisions. I listen to people. I open my eyes, ears and heart.
PINK: What is the biggest career obstacle you faced?
EM:It was this [position] change from editorial to publishing. I wasn’t sure I would embrace this new field of business. I had to study a lot – it was a huge effort. I had to prepare myself to take over and I didn’t know it would work. But I don’t have any reason to regret. It was perfect for me. I felt that we were reaching something good and that my team was happy.
PINK: How has your background resulted in your success today?
EM:I studied journalism, and I think most journalists have this [habit] of being interested in many issues. I am no exception. I always write a lot and I’m interested in literature, art, traditions and spirituality. All these have made me analyze things from many points of view.
PINK: Where did you go on your last vacation?
EM:For my last holiday, I went to Namibia and South Africa with a friend. I love to go to different places and see new horizons. We watched wildlife and went to the desert. It’s a beautiful landscape.
PINK: What are some of your favorite books?
EM: I am always in love with the book I am reading at the moment. Today, you will find today on the chest near my bed The River of Compassion by Bede Griffiths and The Last Flight of the Flamingo by African author Mia Couto.
PINK: Do you have a personal goal to achieve?
EM:My goal is to go on in this path of consciousness and gain more awareness. And I hope in the next three years to increase profits with my editorial team.
PINK: How do you define success?
EM:I think success is to be cautious, to know who you are and the purpose of your life. You find your path with things that catch your attention. You must be present. This is consciousness. Pay attention to the signs and live every day for your purpose. And never try to be someone else. The best thing you can do for humankind is to remain yourself.