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September 14, 2015

Patty Stonesifer: Big Family, Zigzag Path Shaped Leadership Style

Patty Stonesifer, head of Washington, D.C., social-service charity Martha's Table and former chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, talks about her formative experiences and approach to management in a New York Times interview.

Ms. Stonesifer joined Martha's Table, a locally focused provider of food and clothing for low-income people, in 2013, five years after leaving the $39-billion Gates Foundation. She talked to the Times about how growing up in a community-oriented family of nine children influenced her leadership style and how she makes hiring choices.

Ms. Stonesifer also extolled a "zigzagging" approach to pursuing a career path. "Some of the roles I’ve taken looked like they were significantly less important than other roles, but they all led me to new knowledge and new skills that allowed me to keep zigzagging more or less on an upward trajectory," she said. "Don't look to take a job just because it’s up the ladder. Maybe go for a lateral move to learn a whole other area."

Read a Chronicle of Philanthropy article about Patty Stonesifer's move from the Gates foundation to Martha's Table.