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Power Players

Having taken on Silicon Valley giants, Margrethe Vestager has some leadership advice for those just starting out


It's safe to say that the EU's antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, isn't afraid of a challenge.

Since taking on the role of competition commissioner in 2014, she's confronted the likes of Google, Apple and Facebook; having undertaken investigations and handed down million and billion-euro fines to certain companies.

As a leading enforcer of competition law in the European Union, Vestager has learned a thing or two during her time in politics and policy — and has some key advice for any woman who has ambitions of taking on a leadership role like she's done.

"I think sometimes it is a good idea just to forget how other people see you — and to push forward and try to do things," Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition told CNBC's Silvia Amaro this week.

European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager gives a joint press at the EU headquarters in Brussels on July 18, 2018. -
John Thys | AFP | Getty Images

In any scenario which may result in judgement from others, quite often, the "worst thing that can happen" is that you may feel ridiculed, Vestager explained, or your pride may get knocked or you may suffer rejection.

Yet, at the end of the day, "you will live and be wiser," she added. "And this I think, for me, this is one of the ways that I have gained experience."

"So, very often the worst thing that can happen is not very bad. So, keep trying."

Other aspects that shouldn't be considered as a hindrance are your gender or age.

"I think be aware that you a woman, because this is a great thing. You don't have to try to be a man, to look for leadership positions or to be wanting to hold the tool of power to help other people," said Vestager.

Looking back at the achievements she made when she was younger, the commissioner explained that what may have helped her grow, and therefore thrive, was her decision to not agonize over her age when pursuing something.

"One of the things that amazes me now that I'm 50, is that what I did when I was (in my) mid-20s. And I think one of the reasons why it could happen was, that I didn't realize that I was too young. So, I did it, as if I had learned more and seen more and was more experienced."

You don’t have to try to be a man, to look for leadership positions or to be wanting to hold the tool of power to help other people.
Margrethe Vestager
European commissioner for Competition

And, this attitude helped Vestager throw herself into the world of work. In fact, after she graduated from university in the early 1990s, Vestager got swiftly involved in Denmark's political sphere, having worked for the finance ministry and for the Agency for Financial Management and Administrative Affairs — both of which she did before reaching 30.

Vestager has held the position of Denmark's economic affairs and interior minister, as well as being the political leader of the Danish Social Liberal Party from 2007 to 2014.

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