As the head of the Private Bank at Wells Fargo, Julie Caperton has used her life and personal experiences to inform her leadership style.
- With more than 20 years of experience working at Wells Fargo, Caperton has developed what she calls a “no-nonsense” authentic personal leadership style.
- By allowing her personal experiences to inform the way she leads her team, Caperton has been able to forge connections and direct company culture positively, she tells The CEO Forum.
- Caperton also uses her current position to reach out to young, up-and-coming employees experiencing similar challenges to her own.
Why it’s important
Rather than pushing away difficult life experiences, Caperton used setbacks, such as her family house fire, to inform how she led her team. In an interview with Robert Reiss of The CEO Forum, Caperton explained that her young family lost nearly everything during a house fire.
“We had to go back and not only rebuild our house but purchase literally every item that we ever had,” she says. “It taught me a couple of different things. One is the perseverance and what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it.”
Caperton says that the personal difficulties also helped her re-evaluate her priorities and determine what is most important in her life. She says the fire also forced her to learn how to balance her work and personal priorities better.
However, Caperton’s personal tragedy also played a role in developing her own leadership style. While the fire highlighted the importance of things like her family, it also emphasized how quickly the status quo can change—leading to her philosophy of no-nonsense authenticity.
“That perspective I have of what’s important, it carries over in the workplace. And what’s really important in the workplace is strong communication, strong relationships, and authenticity,” she says.
This leadership philosophy led Caperton to focus on being straightforward and honest with peers, team members, and executives in the workplace.
“I always tell people who are new managers, you think you might be doing someone a kindness by not addressing something or tackling something head-on, but the reality is you’re just making it harder,” she explains.
But Caperton’s family home fire is not the only personal experience that informs her leadership. As the first person in her family to attend a four-year college and later graduate school, Caperton looks for workers in similar positions to mentor and guide.
“In the workplace, when I see people—women or minorities—who maybe feel like they don’t have the same network or the same ability to create that network, I really go out of my way to make myself available to people,” she says.
As Caperton worked her way up in her corporate career, she says she was often one of the few, if not the only, woman in the office. Because of this, she constantly encourages women in their careers and offers advice to women who may feel they have no other option but to take a step back.
“Don’t give up. There are ways to create balance. If you’re really good, your boss and your boss’s boss and everyone that surrounds you desperately wants you to stay in the workforce,” she says. “There’s not a way to have it all. You have to always make tradeoffs, but work with the people around you and try to find a way to create that balance while not giving up your career.”