John Hancock CEO shares how to be an effective, empathetic leader

Let things roll off your back, but remind everyone that you're the boss, she says.

Marianne Harrison is the first female CEO of John Hancock. She didn't really think anything of it, but she kept getting asked about it.

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"When people ask me about being the CEO and being female, it does annoy me sometimes," Harrison told FOX Business. "I want people to recognize that I got to this position for being me and for working hard and doing what I do the best that I can do it, not because I'm a female."

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Harrison said it would really upset her to find out she was promoted because she's a woman.

"I don't want to be a statistic, and I think that it's about my abilities and my capabilities, and I've proved myself."

- Marianne Harrison, John Hancock CEO

When she talks about it, Harrison said it makes her feel like women haven't come as far as she would have liked to have come at this point, but she's hopeful, one day, it won't even be a question.

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But being a female leader has a benefit, Harrison said. As a mother of four, she said she's able to bring empathy into the workplace.

"Being a mother, obviously you have to empathize with your children and help them through many different things," Harrison said. "But, at the same time, my kids will always tell you that they think of me as very authoritative in the workplace."

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She said one of the keys to remaining empathetic as a leader, but also getting things done, is to make sure people feel comfortable working with her while simultaneously ensuring they know the decision-making is up to her.

"It's a balance," Harrison said. "It's important that we operate as a team. I'm one of those members of the team, but, by the same token, I'll make the decisions ultimately in the end and where we need to go."

But in those moments, when you want to tear your hair out, Harrison said it's important to keep your cool.

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"You just have to take a deep breath, and you have to kind of relax and, sort of, let things roll off your back a little bit."

- Marianne Harrison, John Hancock CEO

Harrison said instead of getting sad or emotional, she prefers to get mad.

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"I don't get mad at my people, but, you know, I don't hesitate to push back," Harrison said. "At times, I remind people that, you know, it's just a job. We're not brain surgeons. We're not saving lives."

Truly listening to honest feedback is another way, Harrison said, leaders can remain empathetic while maintaining their authority.

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