Ask The Boss

Photography by Alex Stafford By Molly McCartney September 30, 2011

MARGARET L. CALLIHAN: “I had to find a balance between work and not shortchanging my children.”Margaret L. Callihan

Chairman, president and CEO

SunTrust Bank, Southwest Florida

As CEO of the SunTrust Bank region from Manatee to Collier County, Margaret L. Callihan, 56, has 650 “teammates” and oversees 74 banks with deposits of about $4.5 billion. But banking was not her first passion. When she graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1977, she went to work for the Country Music Foundation. After a year, though, she wondered if she should use her business degree and get on a corporate track. Callihan joined Nashville’s Third National Bank (now SunTrust) in 1978. “I had no great vision that I would be a banker. As it turned out, I loved everything I did,” she says.

What are you best at doing? Helping people grow and develop.

What you don’t do well: All this computer stuff.

What pressure do you feel to succeed? Most of the pressure I have is self-inflicted. Some people enjoy having no agenda or schedule, but even on a vacation, I want to know what we are going to do.

Any suggestions for people worried about the financial climate? Times like these create fear in people, primarily because they’re sitting around watching too much MSNBC and CNN. They need to turn some of that off.

How did you manage having three children while working full time? As the kids [now ages 24 to 29] were growing up, I had to find that balance between knowing you have to work a little harder as a woman and yet not wanting to shortchange my children. I remember telling my boss in Nashville, "Here is the deal. I may need to run out for two hours in the afternoon to be at a spelling bee or honors ceremony, but I will work that night or over the weekend to make it up." The greatest compliment I ever got was when one of my children’s teachers told me I was doing more to support children than many of the stay-at-home moms.

Goal you have not achieved:  I would like to be rich. By that I mean having a bunch of money, like Brad and Angelina, who can go anywhere in the world and do anything they want. But I have loved my journey so far­—my family, work, home, community.

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