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Always question success, Cinnabon president Kat Cole tells aspiring leaders

Cinnabon's famous classic rolls. Credit: Wikimedia Commons Cinnabon's famous classic rolls.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Cinnabon president Kat Cole's path to climbing the corporate ladder was a bit more unconventional than that of most high-profile executives. As a teenager she began working as a waitress at Hooters and eventually worked her way up to becoming one of the company's top executives before moving on to Cinnabon four years ago.

In an interview in yesterday's New York Times, Cole stressed the importance of examining how a company's successes came to be. "I’ve learned to question success a lot more than failure. I’ll ask more questions when sales are up than I do when they’re down," Cole tells the Times. "I ask more questions when things seem to be moving smoothly, because I’m thinking: “There’s got to be something I don’t know. There’s always something.” This approach means that people don’t feel beat up for failing, but they should feel very concerned if they don’t understand why they’re successful. I made mistakes over the years that taught me to ask those questions."

She also notes that since joining Cinnabon, she's discovered a very valuable lesson about leadership. "I learned to make sure I take the full authority of my role. When I haven’t, I knew it immediately. And so I keep a keen eye out for whether my young leaders are forgoing an opportunity to lead," she says.


Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

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