在伦敦的克莱里奇酒店（Claridge's Hotel），哈莉特•格林喝了一小口咖啡。再有一个小时，她就要在《财富》最具影响力商界女性（Fortune Most Powerful Women）大会上发言。她一身黑色装扮，戴一条豹纹纱巾，脚踩高跟鞋——给昏暗的地图资料室增添了一抹色彩。格林对此似乎非常在行。去年七月，她开始担任托马斯-库克集团（Thomas Cook）CEO，之后，她给这家陷入困境的英国旅行社注入了活力，将它从破产的边缘拯救回来。
这并不是格林第一次主动接受一个让自己感到不舒服的职位。她的职业生涯有很长一段时间是在艾睿电子公司（Arrow Electronics）度过的。上世纪八十年代初到九十年代中期间，公司共收购了超过70家公司。她经常接受一些“金牛们”（golden bulls）不感兴趣的事情，所谓“金牛”就是指“那些希望做常规工作的非常有才的人，”她解释道。而且当时艾睿电子的CEO史蒂夫•考夫曼要求她尽自己最大的努力。格林解释道：“我倾向于选择自己所喜欢的人或状况，而不是：‘这对我的职业发展会有好处吗？’”在艾睿电子期间，她在欧洲完成了超过20笔收购，然后又在撒哈拉以南的非洲并购了四家公司，成立了一家庞大的合资企业，还作为公司亚太地区销售总监在中国生活过（虽然她不会说汉语，但最终还是成了整个部门的总裁）。
At London's Claridge's Hotel, Harriet Green sips on a cup of tea. She'll be on stage in an hour to speak at a Fortune Most Powerful Women event. Her outfit -- all black, complemented by a leopard scarf and matching heels -- injects some flavor into the dark-hued Map Room. Green seems to have a talent for that. Since becoming CEO of Thomas Cook last July, she's spiced up the struggling British travel brand and saved it from collapse.
Though initially skeptical, investors now seem to trust Green's vision for the 171-year-old company. The stock, which hit an abysmal £0.14 last summer, dipped even lower upon her announcement as CEO of the company (she has no experience in travel). Since then, she's won over shareholders by focusing on key decisions like firing and hiring, bringing in McKinsey as a management consultant, driving Thomas Cook's new strategy to trigger profitable growth, and launching that strategy to the capital markets to refinance the business (it raised £1.6 billion in May). Green's now been at the company for 336 days, and the stock's up to over £1.2.
"I had tens and tens and tens of calls from other CEOs, from the press, saying, 'What are you doing? Why would you do this?'" Green recalls, citing the obvious risk in joining Thomas Cook. But the company intrigued her – its solid gross margins, scale, and brand – and she reached out to the chairman directly. "It was a really good business with a terrible balance sheet." She knew nothing about travel, but convinced Frank Meysman that her transformation expertise as CEO of electrical component distributor Premier Farnell, where she grew its virtually nonexistent web business from 12% to over 55%, primed her for Thomas Cook's top job.
This isn't the first time Green's willingly jumped into an uncomfortable position. She spent the bulk of her career at Arrow Electronics (ARW), which acquired over 70 companies between the early-eighties and the mid-nineties. She often took on the jobs that didn't interest the golden bulls – "the group of very talented guys who want to do the conventional thing," she says – and then-CEO Stephen Kaufman pushed her to stretch herself. "I tend to pick the people or the situation that I want to work for, rather than, 'Is this going to be good for my career?'" Green explains. While at Arrow, she brought together over 20 acquisitions across Europe, moved to sub-Saharan Africa to merge four companies as part of a complex joint venture, and lived in China as the sales director of the company's Asia Pacific business (though she doesn't speak Mandarin, Green eventually became president of the whole division).
Green's attraction to risk is fueled by loss. She says she's more comfortable with unpredictability than most and claims her fearlessness stems from her father's death; he was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 11 and he passed away when she was 14. "When you're a child and your family's quite dominated by cancer, the worst that could happen has kind of happened," she says, adding that grief counseling taught her to always focus on the positive. "What's the worst that could happen [in my career]? I fail. But is that lymphoma or leukemia? No."