In an era where women still struggle to penetrate C-suites and boardrooms, Jill Griffin’s Women Make Great Leaders (Jill Griffin Books, 2017) is a poignant, timely compendium of corporate and life lessons from celebrated women leaders.
Griffin knows a thing or two about succeeding in business. She has been advising Fortune 500 companies about brand management and customer loyalty for more than three decades, and this book is her fifth.
Praise for Griffin
Writing about Griffin and Women Make Great Leaders, retired Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriet O’Neill said:
“Jill has blazed a leadership trail to the very pinnacle of the corporate world. She obviously took excellent notes along the way. Rather than rest on her laurels, Jill has crafted a thoughtful road map for aspiring women – generously marked with critical signposts. Her tried-and-true advice is a must-read for those who seek to challenge their limits.”
At 174 pages, this book is a quick read, but don’t confuse brevity with impact. Spread over 24 chapters, some with titles like “Seize Your Breakthrough Opportunity,” “Beware of Bullies,” “Learn to Say No,” “Outthink Ordinary,” “Be Gracious Under Fire,” and “Refill Your Tank,” Griffin’s book leads predominantly through examples.
During a six-month period in 2016, Griffin interviewed scores of high-profile women leaders. Each chapter is built around one or more of those interviews, and vignettes from other leading business women are sprinkled liberally (and appropriately) throughout.
Good Advice for Women Leaders
A handful of anecdotes that stuck out from my perspective:
- “Say yes to a messy, burdensome assignment no one else wants.”
- “Establish in your boss’s mind the goal you have for yourself.”
- “Bad people work in the world of business. Be cautious. Never let them steal your dignity, confidence, energy, or self-esteem.”
- “Never let someone attribute your success to anything but your hard work and diligence.”
- “It requires courage of the highest order to tell someone—especially a family member, friend, or coworker—no. But remember this: Without no’s, you can never say yes to the purpose and passion you’ve declared for your life.”
- “Embrace your track record. It’s gotten you where you are!”
- “Help your employees imagine how far they can stretch and grow and what is possible. They often limit themselves.”
- “Regardless of the inner rant in your head (Arianna Huffington calls it ‘the obnoxious flatmate’), let your behaviors reflect empathy, respect, and collegiality.”
- “To me, ‘thinking up’ means intentionally bringing as much value as possible to your boss and those duties and responsibilities in which he or she most wants to excel.”
Interestingly, the chapter that I found the most insightful was one principally penned by Griffin (i.e., largely devoid of input from interviewees) about her personal experience with workplace bullying. It’s clearly an experience that was impactful on her career, and Griffin’s lessons learned in that regard are powerfully and practically framed.
For future editions of the book, I would respectfully offer two suggestions:
- Given the physical constraints of the book (i.e., 5 x 8-inch format), I would recommend being more judicious in the use of shaded text boxes so as not to risk disrupting the flow of each chapter.
- Inasmuch as each chapter is only 6-8 pages long, I’m not sure it’s necessary to have a “Takeaways” section in every chapter.
I would recommend this book not only for those who are starting their careers but also for those who find themselves at a crossroads in their professional lives. Last, I would absolutely not limit my recommendation of the book to women, insofar as I found the business lessons therein to be universally applicable (with the possible exception of the list of briefcase essentials for women on page 19!).
The author, Adam J. Epstein, is a former institutional investor, and now an advisor to CEOs and boards of pre-IPO and small-cap companies through his firm, Third Creek Advisors, LLC. He speaks monthly at corporate governance and investor conferences and has appeared internationally more than 100 times since 2012. Mr. Epstein is a key contributor to Nasdaq’s new Amplify small-cap content initiative, and a distinguished National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) Board Leadership Fellow, and faculty member. He is the small-cap contributing editor for Directorship magazine, author of The Perfect Corporate Board: A Handbook for Mastering the Unique Challenges of Small-Cap Companies (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012), and contributing author to The Handbook of Board Governance: A Comprehensive Guide for Public, Private and Not for Profit Board Members (New Jersey: Wiley, 2016). In June 2017, The Perfect Corporate Board was the #1 ranked corporate governance book on Amazon.com, and, in June 2016, The Handbook of Board Governance was the “#1 New Release” in corporate governance on Amazon.com. Connect with Adam on LinkedIn or learn more at https://adamjepstein.com/.