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How Remarkable Women Lead

Personal stories and related insights show how success results from combining the five elements of centered leadership: meaning, framing, connecting, engaging, and energizing.

Crown Publishing, 2009 | Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston, and Geoffrey Lewis

How Remarkable Women Lead presents unique ideas about successful leadership. Based on 5 years of proprietary research, this book raises provocative issues such as whether feminine leadership traits (for women and men) are better suited for our fast-changing, hyper-competitive and increasingly complex world.

Through personal stories, the authors, McKinsey consultants Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston, establish the links between joy, happiness, and distinctive performance with the groundbreaking model of Centered Leadership. The book's personal stories and related insights show how success leads from combining the five elements of Centered Leadership: meaning, framing, connecting, engaging, and energizing.

They include:

  • How Alondra de la Parra built on her strengths and passions to infuse her life with meaning and make her way in the male-dominated world of orchestra conducting.
  • How Andrea Jung, the CEO of Avon, avoided a downward spiral when the company turned down by "firing herself" on Friday, re-emerging on Monday as the "new" turnaround CEO.
  • How Ruth Porat's sponsors at Morgan Stanley not only helped her grow but were also her ballast for coping with difficult personal and professional times.
  • How Eileen Naughton recovered after losing her dream job, landing on her feet at Google and open to new leadership opportunity.
  • How Julie Coates of Woolworth's Australia turns energy into a key to her professional success with reserves for her "second shift" as wife and mother.

How Remarkable Women Lead is at once moving and practical. Through lessons and insights based on the stories of successful leaders, this book provides a practical plan for breaking through at both work and in life.

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About the authors

Joanna Barsh

Joanna Barsh joined McKinsey in 1981 and is a senior partner. Along with her consulting work, she leads the McKinsey Centered Leadership Project, whose goal is to help develop women leaders. Joanna is a New York City Commissioner of Women's Issues and received the Girl Scouts Council Woman of Distinction Award and the National Council of Research on Women Award. Joanna is also a trustee of Sesame Workshop. She was a Baker Scholar at Harvard Business School.

Susie Cranston

Susie Cranston is an organization consultant at McKinsey's San Francisco office. As part of the McKinsey Centered Leadership Project, Susie led a team that completed the research for the Centered Leadership model. She received a B.A. and M.B.A. from Stanford University.


"We are always looking for new perspectives on growing great women leaders. How Remarkable Women Lead is a great read, with real insights and actionable ideas! The inspiring stories give an intimate look at how remarkable women really get things done, providing a development model valuable to both women and men. This refreshing and action-oriented book stands out!"
– Susan P. Peters, vice president, executive development & chief learning officer, General Electric

"Anyone who believes that management innovation is an imperative will find fistfuls of insights in How Remarkable Women Lead. Here are the stories of amazing women leaders in the context of an imaginative and pragmatic framework that rests on a rich fact base. It puts to rest stereotypes we have about who leaders are and how to lead. This work contributes to a much-needed conversation, putting forth a persuasive view on new capabilities for the 21st century leader, such as engaging the whole organization through meaning, energy and joy. The seeds for our future are in here. The new CEO is a woman or a man who is not afraid to drop his John Wayne costume."
– Gary Hamel, author of The Future of Management and Leading the Revolution

"How Remarkable Women Lead is a book that will truly resonate with all women. It is personal, powerful and revealing and thereby true to how we women live and lead. The story-telling makes this unlike any business book I know; these are people who have faced every challenge imaginable and still made their mark. So truthful, so revealing, it's a book at once inspirational and practical - a unique duality."
– Elizabeth Smith, president, Avon Products, Inc