DANY LEVY, FOUNDER OF THE ONLINE GUIDE DAILYCANDY, DISCUSSES THE EVOLVING NATURE OF HER ROLE AS A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR
This article was excerpted from OPEN Book: Leadership. Find more information and resources including a podcast featuring Dany Levy at openforum.com/leadership.
While she was working as a magazine journalist, Dany Levy dreamt up the concept for the curated online guide DailyCandy, and set out on her own to produce a free daily e-mail: a New York City-based insider’s guide to what’s hot, new, and undiscovered – from fashion and restaurant news to gadgets and travel. Ten years later, with 3 million subscribers, she is guiding her vision on a global scale with a new owner, and reflects on how her role as a leader has changed and evolved over time.
I majored in creative writing at college, and then went into journalism. As the internet was fast becoming a mature medium, it was the realization that I could do something really interesting with my passion that made me decide to start a business. It wasn’t a eureka moment, though; the idea kind of bubbled up. Over the years I’ve often been asked whether the idea comes first, or the desire to be an entrepreneur. For me there’s no doubt it’s the idea. You can’t just decide to be an entrepreneur. I identified an opportunity and committed to it; it was as simple, and completely life changing, as that.
Do you think leadership is in your DNA, or have you learned it over time?
It’s a combination of the two, of course. There are different types of leadership that are required for a company at different stages, and I tend to lead by inspiration, rather than through any particular management skill. Part of the reason that DailyCandy has done so well is that I was aware of what I was good at and what I was less good at, and I made sure to hire around my weaknesses. I found a great CEO early on, and he became the day-to-day management, enabling me to remain the visionary.
So then, are you saying you’re more of a delegator or a hands-on leader?
Different employees need different things, so you need to be both. The skill is in reading the specific situation and responding to it well. I’m blessed with a phenomenal staff, and have taken care to pay close attention to each and every one of them, particularly as we’ve grown. You have to remain very aware of whom you’re working with, and flexible enough to recognize that everyone’s needs are different. But this doesn’t mean being a doormat: you need to be firm and consistent too.
Are there differences between being a leader in your field – a thought-leader, and the leader of your company – a people leader?
Leadership in the internal and external worlds can be quite different. Managing staff and managing the external company brand call on different skills. When I get up to speak I put on my “strong-girl” cap, and make a very clear stand for what DailyCandy is and what we represent. I try to remain humble too, and perhaps this is reflected more in the way I lead my staff. Listening to people is important – I have my ideas and convictions, but I try not to impose them. I do a lot of listening, and I will ultimately decide what I think is best, whether it’s my idea or someone else’s. Knowing when to adopt a particular focus means I need to be on top of my business, on top of my field, and on top of my people.