Charlotte Beers has been called "flamboyant flirt," "our puppy," "scarlet," "very steel magnolia," and "hurricane Charlotte." She's also been called Chairman, CEO, and Undersecretary of State.
Her friends call her "Shards," as in glass, for all the glass ceilings she's broken: she was the first female senior vice president at J. Walter Thompson Advertising in the firm's 106-year history, CEO at Tatham-Laird & Kudner, where she tripled billings to $325 billion, and Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. Harvard Business School teaches a case based her track record there. Oh, and from 2001 to 2003, she served as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy & Public Affairs under Colin Powell, taking on the challenge of bringing Brand America to the world, along the way being awarded the State Department's highest honor: the Distinguished Service Medal.
Think Charlotte Beers knows a thing or two about business and leadership? Judging from her new book just out called I'd Rather Be In Charge, she's knows a good bit more, and you need not be of the female persuasion to get a great deal out of it. But it helps.
Beers is on a mission to empower women and help them break a few glass ceilings of their own. Current statistics show that only 12 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Quick math: that's only 2.4 percent. This is particularly dismal given that women outnumber men in colleges, universities and even management positions. This a statistic that bothers Beers, and forms the central question driving her book: when women are more educated and accomplished in the workplace than ever, why are they still so underrepresented in the highest seats of power?
"I've distilled all I've learned and witnessed," she writes. "I want to show you how to lead, inspire and influence others–maybe only one or two others, maybe hundreds or thousands or even millions." I'd Rather Be In Charge provides a comprehensive approach for how to accomplish that.
While Beers delivers time-tested, practical strategies, tactics, techniques and tips, what I liked most were her provocative arguments from which those practices derive.
First, Beers believes women have it harder today, not easier. Despite the advances of the last few decades, the workplace remains hostile to women’s leadership aspirations. She argues that the discrimination has gone underground, leaving women with less of the feedback they need to strengthen professionally.
Second, she believes women have everything it takes, except the ability to communicate their own skill at leading. While men have long been socialized into the ways of leadership, women have not. No blueprint for women leaders exists, leaving each woman responsible for looking inward to find her own unique vision. She offers her experiences as a remedy, the needed blueprint.
Third, the “Mother Hen” persona isn’t going to cut it, in Beers's view. Women’s home personas–mother, wife, lover–do not travel well to work. The nurturing, maternal leadership style many female managers employ simply does not work at the highest levels. Beers encourages women to create a separate “work self” that is bold, tough and willing to fight for ideas and reputation.
In Part I, she leads the reader on a journey of self-discovery to examine messages they absorbed within their families that may need to be questioned, to consider their personal approaches to work and whether they might be tweaked to suit the demands of high leadership roles, and to investigate their self-image to form a more positive and solid understanding that will better translate into recognition by others.
With this interior work done, Part II helps women take their best selves public, showing them how to bring their strengths to relationships and communication, develop a personal leadership style and master the important arena of presentations, where much of one's professional impact and image is made.
Beers is passionate about giving the next generation of women the keys to success and advancement. "I promise you," she writes, "women are going to set a whole new standard in authentic leadership." Any woman wanting to break free of mindsets and habits limiting her rise will soak up the revealing stories and insightful lessons.
But don't just take my word for it. Beers has a few illustrious women as ardent fans, including Martha Stewart and Suze Orman, who says: "Charlotte is the greatest master of knowledge I have ever met. This book will help business women remove their self-imposed blocks and become as great as they are meant to be."