CEO, Citibank, Citigroup

When a female employee is about to squander a big break for fear of being out of her depth, Barbara Desoer gladly butts in.

In such situations, she pushes the employee to realize that she is indeed ready for the next challenge of her career. It is Desoer's job, she said, "to help them enhance their level of self-awareness so that they do seize that next opportunity."

To help a colleague decide she is up to it, Desoer asks some key questions: Are you thinking broadly? How are you building your management experience through opportunities outside of the job, like nonprofit board involvement and internal network leadership roles? Are you being bold enough not only in your current role but the next position you are seeking?

"I believe that success comes from taking the next job that is a 'reach,' with opportunity to learn and grow," Desoer said.

This advice has worked for Desoer. She joined Citibank as chief operating officer in October 2013 and was promoted to CEO less than a year later.

Since then she has taken on the additional responsibility of overseeing the company's anti-money-laundering program. Several banks, including Citi, have been grappling with how to improve their AML functions, an area that regulators are particularly focused on at the moment. Desoer said she believes that having the company's AML efforts centralized into a single function should continue to strengthen it.

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