Mary Kay on Leadership

I had the pleasure of participating in the 2004 Mary Kay Seminar in Dallas, Texas.  We went to sell my new line of motivational gifts but I received much more than monetary gain.  My passion and expertise is helping businesses develop authentic leaders and passionately engaged teams.  Through the years I have worked with hundreds of companies and thousands of leaders.  But, after spending 18 days at the Mary Kay event, I must confess that I had never been exposed to a better business model than the one that was created by the legendary Mary Kay Ash.

We all know that Mary Kay is a tremendously successful enterprise with quality products that enhance the beauty of women.  But, in my first-hand observation, the product is not the real power behind Mary Kay.  Having spent hours with hundreds of Consultants and Directors, I am convinced that the heart of Mary Kay’s success is the culture that the founder so carefully nourished.  Mary Kay was a single parent who worked hard in the corporate world only to be passed over in favor of her male counterparts.  She had the vision to imagine a company where women could follow their dreams and achieve financial success by serving other women.  I asked a very successful National Sales Director about the Mary Kay culture and in response she shared the following conversation.  “I met Mary Kay and asked her what I could do to repay her for what she had done for me.”  She answered, “Pass it forward.”  This is the simple force behind the Mary Kay Spirit – women helping women succeed.  At Mary Kay it’s not about ‘me’ it’s all about ‘the power of we.’  It was so refreshing to watch and feel the positive energy that occurs when people truly care about each other.  In my conversations with these Directors and Consultants, I found that many had left very successful corporate careers to join Mary Kay.  The primary reason is that they felt unappreciated.  Corporate America please take note, it’s not all about results!

To truly understand the force that drives this successful enterprise, one needs to look no further than what this Dream Company values – God first, family second, career third.  Mary Kay understood that success at the expense of faith and family was truly failure and that a balanced life was the true measure of success.  This philosophy is so foreign to the typical business culture that places so much emphasis on performance and productivity, that new Mary Kay Consultants have a hard time accepting the fact that this caring culture is truly genuine.  One Sales Director told me that her biggest challenge is helping new Consultants understand that caring is more than words at Mary Kay, it’s a way of life.  She went on to explain that this is such a big challenge because many women come to Mary Kay from environments – both home and work – where they have been shown very little appreciation.  It takes time to prove that the Mary Kay Culture – Passion for what you do and Compassion for those you serve – is real and believable.

For those like me who study winning cultures, following is what I observed to be the four foundations of the successful Mary Kay Business Model:

  1. Passion – love what you do.
  2. Purpose – be a part of something greater than self.  The Power of We.
  3. Preparation – learn something new every day.
  4. Perseverance – don’t quit before the blessing.
  5. Personal Accountability – accept personal responsibility for your life.

It would have been a real treat to have personally met Mary Kay but I was blessed to feel her spirit through the warm hearts and beautiful smiles of those fortunate to be a part of her family.  For that I am grateful.


PS – For those who still feel that winning is everything, you might like to know that 80% of the female millionaires in the United States are Mary Kay sales professionals.  Success is truly high touch!