Dupont CEO Ellen Kullman: "Invest yourself in what you're building, and it will grow."
FORTUNE -- "My dad started and ran a landscaping business. He put me to work watering plants for my grandmother and for our house. His mantra was, 'If you don't water it, it's going to die.' That was the job I hated most: pouring water on those darn flowers. But my mother and my grandmother had the most beautiful gardens in town.
"When I got out in the world, my father's advice translated into investing yourself in what you're building in order for it to grow. In 1998, I was asked to start a safety business at DuPont. I wasn't given a lot of direction. I picked four other people in the company with different backgrounds to join me. On Friday afternoons, when we were dead tired and out of ideas, I used to bring the team together and 'water plants.' We'd talk about what was wrong, what was right, what was working, and what wasn't. We created a safety-consulting business that grew to a couple hundred million dollars in revenue in a few years and became the genesis of our safety and protection platform, which grew to about $5 billion. If you think about the things DuPont does today, that small group was the genesis of what is now a large focus of what we do."
Job Experience: Business development manager at General Electric (Fortune 500); former board member of General Motors ( , Fortune 500); current board member of United Technologies ( , Fortune 500); member of President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness,
Claim to Fame: First woman to lead the 210-year-old DuPont (Fortune 500); since she took the helm three years ago, DuPont has returned 141% compared with 67% for the S&P 500; co-chair of the National Academy of Engineering Committee on Changing the Conversation: From Research to Action; ranks fourth on Fortune's list of Most Powerful Women.,
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