Uplifting Leaders Means Looking Beyond Gender In The Workplace

By Janet H. Cho
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Barbara Brown and Margie Flynn co-founders of “BrownFlynn management” consulting firm have co-authored a new book titled “Uplifting Leaders (*Who Happen to Be Women).” The book is a collection of stories and advice from 25 of the nation’s most influential women executives.


When Jerry Sue Thornton, former president of Cuyahoga Community College, was once asked by a male boss, “Honey, could you make the coffee?” she agreed, then deliberately made the worst coffee in the world so she would never be asked again.

Throughout her career, she refused to let others dissuade her from what she wanted to accomplish, telling herself that “If I can’t do it with this organization, there are other places.”

Thornton shared the story as part of the City Club of Cleveland’s discussion on “Uplifting Leaders (*Who Happen to Be Women),” a new business leadership book by Barbara Brown and Margie Flynn, co-founders of BrownFlynn management consulting firm. Thornton is among 13 prominent Northeast Ohioans featured in the book, a collection of stories and advice from 25 of the nation’s most influential women executives.

Companies that cultivate and promote women executives also tend to be more profitable. A 2016 study of nearly 22,000 publicly traded companies worldwide by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and Ernst & Young found that companies where 30 percent of its senior leaders were women were up to 6 percentage points more profitable than companies without women at the top.
“Mixed-gender boards outperform all-male boards, and hedge funds run by women outperform hedge funds run by men,” said Priyanka Chaudhry, Ernst & Young partner and Northeast Ohio Diversity & Inclusiveness champion.
When moderator and City Club CEO Dan Moulthrop asked Margie Flynn about what most surprised her while writing the book, she said: “How many of these women cite men as the strength behind what they are today,” and that women who had achieved unprecedented success wanted to be recognized as leaders, not as women leaders. She wanted to highlight women who had risen from different backgrounds to show that more diversity helps generate greater creativity.
When asked about the most important qualities of leadership, Susan M. Fuehrer, medical director of the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, the nation’s third-largest VA, said: “As a leader, you have to have integrity. If the people you lead don’t feel like you have integrity and are honest, no one’s going to follow you.”
Whether you’re a front-line employee delivering trays or a C-suite executive, “everyone needs to be leader in their particular role,” she said. “When you move up the ladder, I think your role is to foster the confidence of all the team members, and make everyone feel that it’s OK to speak up, it’s OK to think differently. When you have a team where everyone thinks differently, that’s when the team rocks.”
Flynn said “Uplifting Leaders” was BrownFlynn’s 20th anniversary gift to the community, and that all of the profits from the book will support the YWCA Greater Cleveland’s Nurturing Independence and Aspirations (NIA), to educate women transitioning out of foster care.
“Every five years we do something to give back to the community in a larger way,” she said. “And what better way to uplift other women than through the YWCA?”
BrownFlynn is offering a chance to win a signed copy of “Uplifting Women (*Who Happen to be Women),” plus $75 worth of gift cards to women-owned restaurants and retail stores in Northeast Ohio. To enter, “like” one of the leadership quotes on its Facebook page at and add a comment about someone who uplifted you in your life and/or career.
Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on July 21. Details are at
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