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The qualities and traits of a millionaire: Q&A with Jude Miller Burke

Edge chats to Jude Miller Burke, self-made millionaire and author of The Millionaire Mystique: How Working Women Become Wealthy – And How You Can, Too (due for release in November)

Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?

I am a business psychologist born in a rural area in Minnesota. I grew up in an industrious, but lower middle class family. My parents married at 18 and had five children fairly quickly and therefore did not have the opportunity to go to college. But, they did start a small business that they then grew over 50 years into a very successful enterprise. They also acquired land piece by piece and recently sold it adding to their net worth. 

Myself and my siblings grew up with parents who role modelled hard work and determination. With all of the economic ups and downs the business was often quite difficult, but my parents were determined to keep their independence. I received three college degrees by working my way through school in a field that I loved – psychology. Fortunately, I chose a field that my personality was well-suited to and I was passionate about and still am today. After my first degree from the University of Minnesota, I started working at a crisis centre and after three years in an entry-level position I became the programme director. I then completed my first Masters degree in counselling psychology and attained my license as a psychologist which then allowed me to provide direct service to clients. I worked part-time as a domestic violence therapist and then went onto to secure a post-graduate internship in a Minneapolis based division of Honeywell. I provided employee assistance counselling and held a management position for 10 years at Honeywell and then went on to secure a PhD in Organizational Psychology and then as vice president of operations built a subsidiary called Optum at United HealthGroup, where I worked for ten years. The past decade I have been providing leadership assessments and executive coaching in Phoenix, Arizona.



How hard/easy was it to make a success in business?

I thought it was difficult (but so rewarding) becoming successful in business. While I had great parents who role modelled hard work, I had to keep up a relentless schedule for many years going to school as an adult, working two and sometimes three jobs, running through airports five months pregnant to make sales presentations across the country. For many years I worked 55 - 60 hours per week. While I was designated as 'high talent' in many positions and was given great opportunities to grow my managerial skills set, I was always confronted with sexism. It was part of my daily work life. I worked with many wonderful women and men who were also supportive and validated my experiences, which helped immensely. Working in a 'for profit' company or position is more stressful because you either generate profits for the company or you are out the door. Luckily, the Optum programme was highly successful and I worked there for 10 years until I started a family late in life.

The key for me is that I chose a field that is a good fit for me and I am passionate about. I read psychology books for fun and continue to seek knowledge and bore people at dinner parties!

What do you think are the qualities/traits people need in order to become successful leaders?

The 160 male and female millionaires and multimillionaires I studied and interviewed for my book, unanimously list the following essential characteristics to become a good leader (and I agree):

• Understand that good leadership is about helping others get the job done
• Create a 'learning organisation' culture where people can admit their mistakes and learn from them
• Manage your emotions well during times of transition or adversity – this gains respect from employees
• Know your own strengths and weaknesses to lead with grace. Self-knowledge and being authentic gives you a calm assurance
• Demonstrate compassionate accountability – show your compassion for those you work with. Be compassionate, but hold individuals accountable
• Cultivate those traits we know lead to success – conscientiousness, interpersonal and social influence skills, have a team orientation, and constantly learn about your industry. Limit worry and neuroticism – leave it at the door
• Remember that women are judged more harshly as leaders and ways to combat this include gaining technical expertise and building strong relationships (social capital)
• Develop a transformational style of leadership, which is hands down, most recommended by highly successful men and women. This means motivating employees with a shared vision of the company's mission, listening to concerns, celebrating good ideas, providing necessary training, hiring people who share the company's values, and being a role model for desired behaviour

What are your tips for staying positive even during the tough times?

• Actively work a self-care plan – it can't be casual. Know what nourishes your soul whether it is biking, hiking, mediation, or prayer.
• Take control about what you choose to be stressed about. Solve problems as they come up and then let it go and move on to the next issue.
• Don't take no for an answer. Use it as motivation
• Understand that detours and failures are truly part of success for everyone
• Learn to say no without guilt and appropriately express your feelings
• Be open to challenging opportunities and positions
• Practice fighting for your ideas with all of the facts at the top of your mind so that you win arguments
• Get comfortable with conflict and welcome it as a chance for a healthy debate. Be kind, firm and use humour when appropriate
• In negotiations increase your results by being cooperative. Try offering the other side something they want
• Consciously deal with emotionality in the workplace by being aware of it, tolerate your own distress, and positively problem-solve
• Keep a work journal at home where you can write about disturbing situations to gain clarity and options
• Know your values and increase your resilience/strength by having a life plan as a guide
• Have a network of people you trust and remember to laugh

Lastly, what advice can you give to aspiring millionaires and leaders?

All of what is listed above was given by 200 female and male millionaires and multimillionaires, through research surveys and interviews. This is a highly credible group of people who were from the 'school of hard knocks' (no silver spoon kids here) and made it to the top. 75% of them were from middle class or lower socioeconomic families and on average they had two adverse serious childhood events including coming from poverty, child abuse, witnessing domestic violence or chemically dependent parents. 

The Millionaire Mystique: How Working Women Become Wealthy—And How You Can, Too! By Jude Miller Burke, PhD Business/ Personal Growth/Women/Gender | UK £12.99 | Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9781857886214 On sale: 27 November 2014| Nicholas Brealey Publishing


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