Author's of 'Little Black Book of Success'

*Although statistics show that more and more African American are achieving success, similar studies also indicate that most of these women are reaching their goals at a tremendous cost in   other areas of their lives.

Because Black women very often lack the guidance and support resources to assist them up the ladder their journey’s are often marked by deep frustrations and pain. In the new book, “The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women,” three successful businesswomen – Elaine Meryl Brown, Marsha Haygood and Rhonda Joy McLean share the value of their experiences of building thriving careers and offer invaluable  mentorship to sisters everywhere.

I recently had the great pleasure to interview these three fabulous women so that they coud share their pearls of wisdom with the readers of the Robertson Treatment. Enjoy!

Robertson Treatment: What motivated each of you to take on this project?

Elaine Meryl Brown: Once I realized that Leadership can be taught, and the fact that it’s never too late to learn to become a Leader, I was inspired to write a book about it.  That leaders aren’t just born, that leaders can be made intrigued me, and I thought, ‘if I can become a leader, then every Black woman in the world can tap into and maximize their leadership potential’.  All they need is access, knowledge and opportunity to learn – all they need is a book to get them started on their leadership journey.

Marsha Haygood: Often times when I was meeting with other senior level women, including my coauthors, the conversation would turn to how we could help other women learn from some of the experiences we have encountered on our leadership journey.  At that time, I was a Human Resource Executive and sometimes saw sisters and brothers also making avoidable mistakes and who did not seek advice until late in the game.

When Elaine suggested writing a leadership book I was excited to take part in the project.

Rhonda Joy McLean: I was invited to join this writing project by my friend and co-author Elaine Meryl Brown, already a successful mystery writer, and felt privileged to have the opportunity to pass along the lessons I have learned over the past forty years in a practical and useful way.  I have mentored hundreds of young attorneys and law students and many others and hope to do this for the rest of my life, as so many people have helped me along my own leadership journey.  “The Little Black Book of Success” is the book I wish I had had access to when I was beginning my own career.

RT: Why has it remained so difficult for African American women to reach the “triple-crown” of success, love and happiness?

MH: The road for Black women is a hard one.  We try hard to live up to the “Strong Black Women” label that we have been given and try to do everything.  I find that as good as we are at multi tasking and taking care of others, we do a disservice to ourselves when it comes to taking care of our own needs.  We focus on one part of our life and try to do it perfectly often at the detriment of the other parts of our lives.  We put our personal dreams and aspirations on hold to advance professionally or visa versa.

We talk about wanting balance but we do not do a good job of practicing it.

RJM: This is a complex question that has historical significance.  My short answer is that many Sisters (including us) have achieved these goals, but not without many sacrifices and support from a host of people, including our families and friends.  I strongly believe that rather than looking at what African-American have not obtained, we need to look at what they/we have been able to do despite the obstacles of racism and sexism and work with them to determine ways to move themselves forward.  Our book seeks to do that – to help Sisters look critically at themselves and strategize ways to avoid self-sabotage and combat negativity to become the leaders they were meant to be.

EMB: I know many women who have attained the triple-crown of success, love and happiness.  Unfortunately, I’m not one of them, but I’m not buying into the press and media that I can’t, that love is not out there for me because I know it is.  I just haven’t found the long-term kind yet, but I’m patient.

RT: Please discuss some of the “high-hurdles” that you have had to overcome to achieve success and happiness?

RJM: When I was 13, I integrated the high school in my small Southern town along with two other young Black women.  We had no idea that all of the students would be outside, or that the sheriff of our town would be there with guns to meet us on our first day of school.  Our four years there were extremely challenging, but we worked together to become academically successful and learned that we were stronger than we knew – both able to stand on our own against hostility and prejudice AND to collaborate among ourselves and with others who didn’t look like us to forge friendships and bonds that have remained over the years

EMB: I’ve had to achieve every hurdle in our book starting with Chapter number one, “Always Consider Yourself a VIP” with a subtext that the first person you lead is ‘you’ to modifying my communication style to getting rid of my sense of entitlement and taking ownership of my leadership journey.

MH: I have had some hurdles to overcome at different times in my personal life and career, but for the most part I have been blessed.

The loss of my best friend at a young age and the loss of my mom who was my inspiration and biggest fan were devastating. The professional challenges for me really centered on working with non supportive colleagues.  I had to learn that not everyone is your BFF (best friend forever) – which is a chapter in our book and I had to learn to trust my gut and take prudent risks.  The biggest lesson I had to learn however was that often, in order to be successful, you have to “leave something on the table” so everyone feels like they have won.  Some battles are not worth fighting, even when you win and others must be fought even if you loose.  The lesson here is to pick your battles carefully and strategically.

That was a hard lesson for a Black girl from the Bronx, NY.

RT: So what comes after you’ve climb the mountain top?

EMB: I’m a long way from climbing the mountaintop, but I imagine when I get there I’ll have a magnificent view of all the sisters who have tapped into and maximized their leadership potential to lead themselves, their families, their communities and their careers to much success.

MH: I suggest enjoy the landscape but don’t rest on your laurels.  After I had a successful corporate career, I founded my own company, StepWise Associates.  As a coach I advise people who want help making changes in their life and career. I have combined my experience, skill and passion and I am living my dream!

RJM: There are always other mountains to climb – whether in your personal growth and development, spiritual quests and/or career navigations.  I believe that the truly successful person never stops learning new things and trying out new experiences.  I hope to be like Shirley Chisholm, Duke Ellington and other icons – growing and learning and moving forward all the time.

RT: What’s the one rule of achieving success that each of you find most important?

RJM: My personal rules are to treat everyone as you wish to be treated no matter who they are or what their role is in an organization and to pay attention to the culture that you are in.  Each organization (church, non-profit institution, college, university and/or corporation) has a particular culture and you need to understand that culture in order to thrive and lead.

EMB: There are so many rules of achieving success, but the first one that comes to mind that I always talk about is, regardless of your position learn all you can about your department, your company and your industry.  This is how you find your mentors, build your success team and find out about job opportunities.  The time to network is not when you no longer have a job, but while you still have a one.

MH: I cannot say that there is any one rule to achieving success but there are definitely things that will make the ride more enjoyable.  These include:

  • Develop an action plan which helps you to focus on what you would like to get from every situation.  (I live by the Stephen Covey quote: “Start with the end in mind”)
  • Surround yourself with positive and supportive people so you can seek guidance and mentorship
  • Don’t let your emotions take control because he who angers you controls you.

We have 40 laws that we discuss in The Little Black Book of Success and I believe that each one will serve us well during our journey to success.

RT: What role can African American men play in helping our wives, partners and lovers reach their goals?

MH: I love this question because I have been married to my husband for 25 years and we have four sons. We have all been supportive of one another and have a mutual respect for one another.  I think helping one another and respecting each other’s differences is imperative.  Also humor helps!

RJM: I am fortunate to have a fabulous 88 year-old father who has always supported me(along with my 84 year old mother), as well as a wonderful brother, four great uncles and ten male cousins all of whom I adore.  They have always supported me and I have supported them in turn.  I believe that we must support each other because when one of us does well, we all do well.  This principle has served me well over the years.

EMB: The role that African American men can play in helping wives, lovers and partners is to be supportive, which means communicating, listening and sharing the things that are on your mind.  Sometimes as Black women we think we have to do it all which is a myth because we can’t.  Our men can help us by asking us what they can do to help and be supportive.  Oftentimes support can be as simple as a kind word, listening, good hug or a shoulder to lean on.


The Urban World Film Festival kicks off next Thursday, September 15th with the world premiere of the family drama, “I Will Follow,” written and directed by Ava DuVernay and starring Salli Richardson, Omari Hardwick, Beverly Todd and Blair Underwood. Other festival highlights includes Nabil Elderkin’s Bouncing Cats, narrated by rapper/actor Common with Mos Def and Will-I-Am; Robert O’Hara’s The Inheritance, starring Golden Brooks and DB Woodside; Qasim Basir’s Mooz-lum,starring Danny Glover, Nia Long and Evan Ross; and Madeleine Sackler’s The Lottery, which uncovers the failures of the American public school

System. For more information and screening times visit:


2010 Mazda 3

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Grade: B +

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