Cathie Black to Women: 'Reinvent Yourselves'

After four decades leading the magazine publishing world -- even earning the title "First Lady of American Magazines" -- and a brief stint as Chancellor of New York City Schools, no one would disparage Cathie Black for slowing down and enjoying a quieter life.

Quite the contrary -- she's starting something new.

Black has traded leadership positions and corner offices in classic New York City skyscrapers for consulting roles based in open, modern workspaces. As an investor and advisor for some of today's fastest-growing small companies, including The Daily Muse, Black is energized by working with young entrepreneurs to help them make their business ideas real.

She enjoys "not being the boss" and calls the passion and grit of the young business owners she supports exciting, new and fresh. "These people are so singularly focused, but so willing to pivot and create new ideas to drive their businesses where they need to go," she said.

"They're fearless," Black explains, "But I was fearless when I started out, too. The difference is: these are their companies. They've raised capital from family, friends and favors. They'll do whatever it takes to succeed, and I admire that."

Speaking last week at the ninth-annual Massachusetts Conference for Women, Black shared stories of her successful reinvention during a session with some of the conference's 10,000 attendees. When asked how women can share even a bit of her success, Black said, "Don't fall into the trap of needing to be liked. Just keep reminding yourself, 'I'm here to do a job. I'm here to drive results.'"

She encouraged attendees, who traveled from Massachusetts, New England, and beyond, to live a 360-degree life, and find the balance between confidence and vulnerability. She stressed that women need to show their managers they're tough enough to advance and be successful, and warm enough to be connected and effective leaders.

Black says, "I've never been a chilly executive," emphasizing that no one leads in absence of a team. She says, "You cannot lead without followers. You need to find a way to bring them along. They need to be invested in their contribution."

She says women in business need to capitalize on their innate ability to make connections -- bringing together people, their passions and a collected purpose. She encourages women to, "Bring in the circle, let them see your vision, and work together to determine how you can achieve it."

Black explains that while she is accustomed to traditional top-down management, she's encouraged that women today make work processes more engaging and collaborative. She advises women to take a seat in the middle of the room (the spot from which its easiest to engage with all parties), assess the room's "temperature" (making note of body language), and finally, adapt to facilitate success.

Black continues to describe that great leaders like Oprah Winfrey, Francis Ford Coppola and Rupert Murdoch -- with whom she has worked during her career -- are skilled at adapting, plus they possess indefatigable drive when an idea takes hold. "Great leaders have a vision that is single-minded. They know what they want to do. They see an idea as a big, important [opportunity]. Their vision is tunnel. They don't get caught up in the little stuff."

Black's parting advice to the Massachusetts Conference for Women audience is simple. She says, "Do your job really well -- better than anyone else could -- and don't forget to be yourself." Whether it's leading some of magazine's most impressive initiatives or mentoring wide-eyed employees at tech start-ups, it seems Black continues to get the job done -- with no sign of slowing down.