Arianna Huffington – Founder of The Huffington Post

January 2011

Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post

By Lisa Earle McLeod

(Editor’s Note: In February of 2011, Arianna Huffington sold The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million in a reported effort to enhance the internet company’s presence as a top digital news source.)

She’s a conservative who became a liberal. She’s a Greek born, Cambridge-educated woman who helped shape an American election. She’s Arianna Huffington, the woman behind The Huffington Post who redefined online media.   With 12.3 million unique views a month, HuffPo as it’s known to insiders, has surpassed The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times and The Washington Post and is gaining fast on The New York Times.

Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people, Huffington is the woman who harnessed the power of the Internet to become a digital age media mogul. Offering breaking news and opinion on everything from politics to business to lifestyle topics, The Huffington Post has become one of the world’s most popular news websites.

When Huffington and her partners first launched the site on May 9, 2005, many thought it would be a passing fad. Five years later when President Barack Obama turned to a Huffington Post writer for the first question in one of his early press conferences, it was clear, Arianna Huffington had become a global force.

During her recent keynote at Spelman College, Huffington sat down with PINK and talked about her success, the role of media in our lives – and why women need to quit waiting for the white horse.

PINK: Despite your success in all things digital, do you think we’re too dependent on technology?
I do think we need to learn to disengage. We’re so plugged into technology.  I have three devices in my purse right now.  We need to learn to disengage at times, so that we can reengage.  When you look at many of our problems – like the BP oil issue – the problem isn’t that we couldn’t have known. We need to see beyond what’s obvious and to do that, we need to disengage.

PINK: Describe your leadership style.
The greatest quality of leadership is being able to see the iceberg before it hits the Titanic, to be able to see around corners.  We need to recognize the need to manage ourselves. A high IQ isn’t enough, what’s missing is wisdom and judgment.

PINK: In your 2007 book, On Becoming Fearless, you wrote, “when the human spirit is awakened there is no problem too intractable to solve.”   Do you still believe that?
I do. There’s a spirit of resilience that’s emerging.  We’ve recognized that we need to see ourselves as something beyond just bodies, with aches and pains, which live and die.  We’re starting to develop an instinct for something beyond just survival.  When we make life more than just about me, and we find a purpose beyond self, we solve bigger problems. We have to get beyond sex, survival and power.

PINK: How does that awakening play out for women in the workplace?
Women are looking for more significance in work.  Men are on a more linear path.  But we can see that the male model hasn’t always worked from an economic standpoint.  The male order in business is based on workaholic-ism and sleep deprivation.  So you have a lot of senior executives making decisions when they’re exhausted. All the heart attacks we see in corporate America show that we’re out of balance.  We’ve become very smart and busy, but not very wise.  When we’re exhausted, we’re not tapping into our inner wisdom.

PINK: What can women do to tap into their own wisdom?
We have been waiting for the man on the white horse.  Now is the time for us to look in the mirror and find that leader inside.  The country needs us, our families need us and the stakes have never been higher.

PINK: Clearly you have political opinions, but you’ve also said we need to be more civil, how do you reconcile that?
Civility is not lack of passionate intensity, and it doesn’t mean meeting in the mushy middle.  Civility is recognizing the humanity of your nemesis.  The greatest tragedies occur when we demonize certain individuals.  The essence of civility is empathy.

When we talk about civility and bi-partisanship that doesn’t mean we’re always going to bring everyone along.  Major breakthroughs have always been hard fought and there has always been opposition, for example, women’s rights and slavery. The politicians go whichever way the wind is blowing.  It is our job to make sure that the wind is blowing in the right direction.

PINK: How does fear affect public dialogue?
  What makes lack of civility even more dangerous right now is that we’re living in times of deep economic uncertainty. Right now there are 25 million people out of work, if you include the underemployed.  One in eight homes is in foreclosure.  People from the middle class are moving into trailers.  People can’t pay their credit card bills. Everyone knows someone who has lost a job. These are unprecedented times. It’s the only time in recent history that we have downward mobility.

Fear and uncertainty makes us prone to fear mongering, because in times of fear, people operate from their lizard brain. People project their fear onto scapegoats.  But we need to have zero tolerance for scapegoating when it comes to officials.

PINK: As an Internet mogul, what role do you think the web plays in public debate?
The problem with the Internet is that people are hiding behind anonymity, which allows you to be uncivil.  When we launched The Huffington Post five years ago – which in Internet years is like dog years – we decided that human beings would decide what will be published.  We have 30 people reviewing content before it gets published.  You may disagree, but without civility your comments won’t be posted. We have to base our arguments on fact and truth.  The truth is the highest mission in journalism.  The truth is not found in the middle.  It is our job to ascertain it.

PINK: How would you like to see things change in the media?
I have a dream that we’re going to be able to use technology for fact-checking live television. Every time a public figure is on television saying something untrue, a little fact-check bubble pops into the screen.  We need more transparency. Trust is the new luck.  The more transparency we have, the easier it is to build trust.

PINK: What’s your success secret?
To not be afraid of failing. So many women are afraid that they end up not trying.  My mother taught me that failure is not the opposite of success – it’s a stepping stone to success.

Lisa Earle McLeod is an author, columnist, keynote speaker and business consultant specializing in sales and leadership training.  Her newest book, The Triangle of Truth, has been cited as a blueprint for “how smart people can get better at everything.”

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