Leonora Zilkha Williamson is the Founder/CEO of Platinum Rule Advisors, a consulting firm serving corporate leaders, owners of family businesses and venture capital/ private equity investors through executive coaching and leadership development. Her career includes leadership roles at J.P. Morgan, Boston Consulting Group, and Estée Lauder. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, she is also a certified coach (ACC) through the International Coach Federation. She has lived in 8 countries, speaks 5 languages, and carries 2 passports. She was a founding partner of women’s angel investment group The JumpFund, and also sits on the board of family company Sabre Yachts. Leonora’s “side hustle” is teaching Negotiation and ESG to undergraduates as a Lecturer at Vanderbilt University. She volunteers actively at the University School of Nashville. She lives in Nashville with her two daughters and a golden retriever named Scout.
Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?
In many ways, being a coach is relatively new, and also what I’ve always been doing. Out of college, I worked on Wall Street in M&A at J.P. Morgan, an adventure that brought me to Santiago, Chile for 1.5 years. I then earned an MBA at Harvard Business School, and worked at the Boston Consulting Group after graduating. A couple years later, I moved to Estee Lauder, specifically the MAC brand, where my leadership role in the international division took me around the world and taught me how to run a high-growth business.
Then, everything changed. Within 18 months of resigning from Estee Lauder to get married, I was living in Chattanooga, Tennessee as a stay-at-home mom of a newborn baby. I spent time focusing foremost on my family, but managed to squeeze in some interesting projects, most notably spending 10 years on the Board of Chattanooga’s Creative Discovery Museum. In addition, I co-founded the Jump Fund, an angel-investment group funding female-led startups across the Southeast.
Queue another significant life change. After being freshly divorced, I moved my children to Nashville, Tennessee to begin a new job back in the beauty industry. I saw some red flags and ignored them because I was so excited about the role. I started in August, and in November, I was fired. It was devastating, but the experience kicked off one of the most important seasons of my life. I reflected deeply on my gifts and how I wanted to use them. I decided to become a certified coach and started my business, Platinum Rule Advisors, which has grown beyond my wildest dreams. I attribute its success to the fact that I’m following my passion, and I love every minute of my work.
Currently, I am lucky to have a fun portfolio of activities within Platinum Rule Advisors, as well as a great team.
- Executive Coaching: I actively coach a number of executives, mostly CEOs. It is the honor of a lifetime to work with people in their most vulnerable moments and accompany them as they make profound change. In that work, I often use the Enneagram and Positive Intelligence tools.
- Team Coaching: I also work with teams to overcome a variety of issues. These days, I have been doing a lot of work on building trust and preparing for the world to re-open after COVID.
- Leadership Development: Using Predictive Index assessments, I work with companies of all sizes to help people understand each other and themselves.
I also have a “side hustle” as a professor at Vanderbilt University and teach Negotiation and Corporate Social Responsibility. I’ve become crazy about Gen Z - they’re the best!
Q: What motivated you to get started with Platinum Rule Advisors?
I never planned to build a company. At the outset, I just wanted to be a coach. As my business grew, I created a network of partner coaches to whom I refer clients. Mutual fit is critical for a successful coaching engagement, and I am not always the right fit for a client. If I assess that another coach will serve a client better than I will, I don’t hesitate to refer them. My partner coaches are all certified by the International Coach Federation at the Associate Certified Coach level or higher, and are some of the most brilliant, compassionate, insightful people I know.
Q: How have you attracted clients and grown your firm?
All my clients have come from referrals or word-of-mouth. At first, my clients were people I’ve known for a long time that subsequently referred their colleagues and friends, and the business grew from there. I’m humbled that so many in my network trust me to do this work with them.
I’m a lifelong learner and am driven to better my coaching. I recently earned the accreditation of Professional Certified Coach (PCC) from the International Coaching Federation. To earn this upper-tier coaching credential, I completed over 125 training hours, spent more than 500 hours coaching clients and completed a rigorous assessment.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
I’m a big believer in goal-setting and tying goals to a larger purpose. PRA’s purpose is to bring out the best in people in teams. The individual goals we set support that, and right now, they’re focused on getting the right people in the right seats to maximize our impact. I also have revenue and profit goals that reflect aggressive growth and responsible, intentional investment.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you've faced and obstacles you've overcome?
I’ve experienced a lot of adversity, and without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today. The two biggest challenges I’ve encountered are getting divorced and getting fired. In the moment, these events were devastating, but as time passes, I see the gifts in both.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
One of my favorite podcasts is Guy Raz’s “How I Built This,” a series in which he interviews founders of some of the world’s most famous companies. I’ve listened to nearly every episode, and I have never once heard someone say they started a company for the money. On the contrary, many of the entrepreneurs incurred debt to pursue a vision in which they believed deeply. As trite as it sounds, my advice is to figure out what you love to do. Not everyone who pursues their passion is successful, but every successful person I know is doing what they love.