"Retirement passed me by," the late great Helen Gurley Brown told Cathie Black back when the two worked together at Hearst. Black headed Hearst Magazines for 14 years until 2010, while Brown, into her 80s, was the ever-present grand dame of Cosmopolitan.
Brown, who died on Monday at 90, didn't invent Cosmo, but as its editor from 1965 to 1997, she created the wonder that is now the top-selling U.S. monthly magazine, with 64 customized editions around the world. Her intoxicating work style (her office had pink walls and leopard carpeting) and provocative content ("fun, fearless, female" is Cosmo's motto) diverted attention from the reality that Brown had bona fide business chops. And the management lessons that colleagues took from Brown transcend the publishing world. Cathie Black offers three of the best lessons she learned from Helen Gurley Brown:
Care passionately about what you do—and do it the best you possibly can. "Helen believed no matter how small your job, if you approach it with passion and work beyond 9 to 5, doors will open for you," Black says. The credo paid off for Brown, who reportedly had a slew of secretarial jobs before she moved up to writing ads. Helen's break: At Foote Cone & Belding ad agency, she wrote such colorfully detailed, dazzling travel itineraries for her boss's wife that the wife coaxed him to promote Helen from secretary to copywriter.
Treat everyone the same. "Helen said about people, 'You never know who they are. You never know what they will become.'" Heaping kudos, recognition and respect on people--employees at every level--was Brown's leadership approach. "She never thought any amount of praise was too much," says Black.
Be personal and specific. Using her trusty Royal typewriter, Brown wrote letters constantly--hundreds each week in her heyday and dozens weekly in her later years. Each month, she critiqued Cosmo's editions around the world. No matter that she couldn't read the language; she appraised the layout, the photos, the typography of each edition and sent notes advising how to do a better job next time. Says Black: "Helen took the time to communicate in a way that no one does today."
I recently got a call from Lauren Fleischer, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania and head of Wharton Women. I knew Wharton Women, having once given a talk about leadership and success to this student group. While I had never met Lauren, I was mightily impressed with her as she interviewed me for her research paper on that very topic -- leadership and success. In fact, I told her MOREPatricia Sellers - May 16, 2011 1:13 PM ET
I was on stage with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the producer and director of Miss Representation, on Friday just after the news broke that Christina Norman was out as CEO of Oprah Winfrey's new TV network, OWN.
What an odd coincidence, since Newsom's documentary explores the dearth of women in "clout positions" in the mainstream media. Newsom says that this number is 3%.
Clearly, it is getting worse.
The day before Norman, a former president MOREPatricia Sellers - May 9, 2011 2:54 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Today, on National Equal Pay Day, it's worth noting that women still make only 77 cents vs. the average man's dollar.
I may catch flak for saying this, but one reason is that women aren't as good at negotiating as men are. I know this from talking with hundreds of women in the Fortune's Most Powerful Women community. And many women on our annual Most Powerful Women list have MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 12, 2011 2:36 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Few career falls are as swift and spectacular as Cathie Black's.
It took just 95 days for the former boss of Hearst Magazines -- and alum of the Fortune Most Powerful Women list -- to get ousted as chancellor of New York City public schools.
Since her exit yesterday, Black had not talked to the press, except for "60 seconds in front of my apartment building last night," she said when she MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 8, 2011 1:18 PM ET
by Patricia Sellers
Did you hear that Lady Gaga was the magazine world's No. 1 hit-maker in 2010? So says the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which found that the provocative performer sold more magazine covers last year than any other celebrity.
That got me thinking...Lady Gaga shares a trait with two other powerful women who are making news this week: Oprah Winfrey and Cathie Black, the new chancellor of New York City's MOREPatricia Sellers - Jan 5, 2011 11:42 AM ET
By Patricia Sellers
Lots of movement in the Most Powerful Women space. A Friday wrap-up....
Hearst Magazine chairman Cathie Black surprised the world--and people close to her too--by accepting a job as Chancellor of New York City schools. It's not so shocking that Mayor Mike Bloomberg would hire her--they're friends, and she is, like him, a strong manager although one who's inexperienced in education. Joel Klein, Black's predecessor, also was inexperienced in MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 12, 2010 1:30 PM ET
It was, to steal a Malcolm Gladwell term, a "tipping point" in my outlook on the cratering economy. I call it my "That Girl" moment.
It was the fourth Monday in November last year. I was at a Thanksgiving party at the home of Cathie Black, the president of Hearst Magazines. Marlo Thomas was there, too. "Saks is selling shoes for 75% off. It's incredible!" TV's onetime Ann Marie was crowing, MOREPatricia Sellers - Feb 27, 2009 1:01 PM ET
I went out to lunch today. Really. Even as you've read this week about the slashing and shrinking inside my company, Time Inc. (TWX), and across the magazine industry (even Conde Nast, the proud, privately-held protector of privilege and perks is axing), I have to eat. I have to schmooze. My job depends upon it.
Allow me to defend the expense-account lunch. Here are my rules of (lunchtime) engagement, honed over MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 31, 2008 3:56 PM ET
Who will head Hearst following CEO Victor Ganzi's sudden departure? Read my colleague Richard Siklos' smart take on the drama there. I had lunch on Monday with one contender: Hearst Magazines President Cathie Black - and even then, she had no clue that her boss was going to quit. In fact, Cathie told me on Monday that she was heading to India for an IBM (IBM) board meeting this MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 19, 2008 6:32 PM ET
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