People and their impact on Linnet F. Deily provide the core of every story she shares about her successful careers as a businessperson and an ambassador. She calls her stories “maxims from a leadership prospective, but not Business Leadership 101. My business leadership, the lessons I learned in financial services and lessons in diplomacy.”

The Dallas native who lives in Houston was Deputy U.S. trade representative and U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization from 2001 to 2005. When she started in the 1970s financial world, she blazed a trail largely uncharted by women. She rose to the position of chairman of the board, CEO and president of First Interstate Bank.


“You can’t do it by yourself,” Linnet F. Deily told students during her visit to Mays. “The team around you, the whole environment today is so much more participatory, you just have to work together.”
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Earlier, she was vice chairman of the Charles Schwab Corp., president of the Schwab Retail Group and president of Schwab Institutional Services for Investment Managers.

“I looked at life as some kind of opportunity,” she recalls of her early career. “I attribute it a lot to my parents, who were both highly educated — master’s level — farmers and educators. They weren’t pushing me out to do what I did, but they also told me I was reasonably intelligent and ought to try whatever I wanted. I don’t think they knew how far I’d go with it.”

Relationships matter, she emphasized to the Mays students she met with on a recent visit to Texas A&M. “You can’t do it by yourself,” she said. “The team around you, the whole environment today is so much more participatory, you just have to work together. Then, after the work is done, you get the added advantage of building lifelong friendships.”

Deily emphasized the need to be open to learning, to accepting new challenges and to being unique. She pointed back to the importance of relationships, and said a key ingredient to any successful interaction is preparation. “Flying by the seat of your pants is fine,” she says, “but flying by the seat of your pants with a little groundwork will have you soaring instead of scrambling.”