(photo credit: http://www.rugusavay.com/mary-kay-ash-quotes/)
For me, personally, Mary Kay Ash is a hero. She single-handedly provided jobs for thousands of women who were, in the early 1960’s, often passed over for jobs in favor of male candidates or were unable to find careers that complemented their family lives. To answer to these pressing issues, Mary Kay created a list of the attributes that she would like to have in an employer, traits which would constitute a “dream company” that women would like to work for: 1.) treats everyone equally, 2.) base promotions on merit, and 3.) choose products based on their sales performance (Mary Kay Ash, 2008). This list inspired her to create her own company based upon those very same principles.
Mary Kay used her small life savings of $5,000 to buy a recipe for a skin softener and open up her own small store, hiring her friends as her first set of direct-sales “consultants” or salespeople. The business grew rapidly and within 2 years she had a sales force of 3,000 consultants. Famously, Mary Kay began rewarding her top performers with pink Cadillacs, which have become a popular symbol of the brand (Mary Kay Ash, 2008).
According to Mary Kay’s official biography on her company website, she has received several awards and honors: being named to Fortune’s National Business Hall of fame in 1996, being listed as one of “America’s 25 Most Influential Women” in the 1985 issue of The World Almanac and Book of Facts, and being selected as Baylor University’s “Greatest Female Entrepreneur in American History” in 2003 (marykay.com). Personally, the idea that one woman would design an entire company around treating women with respect and giving them the opportunity to become entrepreneurs themselves is nothing short of amazing. Mary Kay Ash is a role model for women as well as one of the greatest female leaders in American history.
Transformational leadership “is a process that changes and transforms people” (Northouse, 2013). Mary Kay Ash was a transformational leader for this very reason; the opportunities that she offered women at that time were life-altering for them. She treated her employees with respect, offered a vision that they could aspire to, and motivated them to achieve goals beyond their expectations (Northouse, 2013). By giving these women opportunities to excel as well as an example of attainable success, Mary Kay became a true Transformational leader and hero to women across America.
About Mary Kay Ash. n.d. Retrieved from http://www.marykay.com/en-US/About-Mary-Kay/CompanyFounder/Pages/About-Mary-Kay-Ash.aspx
Mary Kay Ash: A beauty queen opens up the world of entrepreneurship to tens of thousands of women. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/197602
Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.