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Kristi Savacool

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Kristi Savacool

CEO
Aon Hewitt Inc.
Lincolnshire, Ill.
Age: 52

Kristi Savacool is CEO of Aon Hewitt Inc., the benefit consulting and outsourcing giant that was formed after Aon Corp.'s purchase last year of Hewitt Associates Inc. Aside from her CEO role, which she assumed in May, Ms. Savacool is responsible for leading Aon Hewitt's outsourcing business, which provides a wide range of services to plans covering more than 22 million participants. In 2007-2008, Ms. Savacool directed Hewitt Associates' restructuring program, which helped the company save between $300 million and $500 million in costs, a key factor in helping Hewitt weather the recession. She also sponsors Aon Hewitt's Women in Leadership programs, such as Menttium Corp., which specializes in mentoring solutions for female leaders.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN ENTERING THIS FIELD?

To recognize that the industry we are in is a service industry. It is really important to establish a service culture that drives outcomes for clients and individuals alike. You need to know them well and create a service culture that delivers on those needs. When you do that, you will have a successful leadership career.

WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING THING YOU'VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER?

I would say how important it is to see across differences and adversity, and focus on innovation that really is going to take clients in your own organization to another level. To see the big picture, look around the corner and work across any differences or adversity to realize that innovation on behalf of your clients.

DID YOU HAVE A MENTOR EARLY IN YOUR CAREER?

There is one particular mentor: John Warner, who was the chief administrative officer at The Boeing Co. What he did for me early in my career was teach me how to work cross-functionally and to lead on a broader level, to lead big organizations, big programs, and to do so in very complex circumstances.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM JOB, OUTSIDE OF YOUR CURRENT ROLE?

My dream job is to lead a nonprofit, focused on services for either children or the elderly.

OUTSIDE OF FAMILY AND COLLEAGUES, WHOM DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?

Nelson Mandela is the person who comes to mind. The reasons why are the qualities that he exhibited—courage, humility and perseverance in the face of adversity—were truly amazing. He stayed true to his principles. That lesson in leadership transcends cultures. I often think about the conviction and the courage that he exhibited in what he believed in. Every day as leaders we face complexities, we face challenges, and you have to stay true to a set of principles. I think he is a great role model in that regard.

WHAT'S YOUR CAN'T-MISS TV SHOW?

I don't really have one, because I don't do a lot of TV.

BEYOND WORK, WHAT ONE THING DO YOU WANT TO DO OR ACCOMPLISH IN LIFE?

That is very easy, and it involves our two children. I want to leave the world with two children who are happy and fulfilled and achieving their own great potential, and they are contributing to society as good parents, loving spouses and have successful and fulfilling professions in their own right.

DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA? IF NOT, WHY NOT?

I do Facebook, and LinkedIn. I use Facebook to stay in touch with family and LinkedIn to stay in touch with my professional colleagues.