"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."
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
We love companies that underpromise and overdeliver. Apple (AAPL) is one. Another is Amazon.com (AMZN). Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos thrives on overdelivering.
I had my own Jeff Bezos multimedia experience last night as I sat in my living room and played with my new Kindle 2 while watching Bezos on the Charlie Rose show. (Click here to see the show from late February--yes, I was playing DVR catchup.) The Amazon MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 30, 2009 3:07 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
"When you consider accepting a new position at work, all your leverage is before you say yes."
Hearst Magazines President Cathie Black told me this over lunch at Michael's Monday. Not that I'm considering a new job at one of Time Inc.'s main rivals. (Fear not, Ann Moore!) But as Black and I traded insights on career mistakes - the topic that resonated most of all with readers of her recent MOREPatricia Sellers - Jun 16, 2008 7:22 PM ET
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