Written by three African American women who have faced wide-ranging professional challenges, The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women by Elaine Meryl Brown, Marsha Haygood, and Rhonda Joy McLean is a quick and easy read with many useful perspectives. While many of the tools they suggest are written in such a way that resonate with their target audience, professional black women, black men can also find some takeaways. Further, notwithstanding targeting black women, The Little Black Book has something to offer for all professional women, if not all professionals period.
Ultimately, the authors share with up-and-coming professional black women many of the rules of the game for professional advancement, but they do some things differently from many professional books. First, they tell black women that they MUST acknowledge that there is a game, and that they MUST play it in order to be successful. This is probably one of the strongest points of the book, particularly when viewed in light of Chapter 22: The Values You Were Raised with in Church Aren’t Always Valued in Business. It could be argued that many black women refuse to play the game because they may see such as an affront to their religious beliefs. The Little Black Book does an excellent job of taking on the conflict and addressing the differences between personal and business ethics. While confronting the values debate, they also address head-on a particularly challenging area for many African American women: accepting that success is not just about how well you accomplish your stated responsibilities, but that relationships are critical because they lead to increased visibility, development opportunities, and influence. Brown, Haygood, and McLean promote more off-the-clock interaction with co-workers as way to gain more support. For many, the Achilles heel is maintaining personal authenticity while stepping outside their comfort zone to spend their free time with people with whom they believe they share very little common ground. The Little Black Book recommends making certain elements of professionalism a part of one’s authentic self like consistent use of correct grammar and enunciation to boost comfort and confidence. Although this type of recommendation can come across as condescending, it speaks to patterns that erode one’s professional demeanor in the eyes of the majority culture…even if it doesn’t matter with your homegirls. Beyond adjusting one’s mindset about values and professional relationships, the authors plainly recommend being aware of the realities of the workplace. Specifically, they share points about personal leadership development (i.e., Chapter 36: Coaches Aren’t Just For Athletes), and aiming for work-life balance (i.e., you must take time to nurture your spirit and personal connections).
Taken as a whole, The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women, is worth the read. I would share this book with young women who are just starting out, the seasoned women who mentor them as a reminder of where the landmines continue to lay, and the frustrated professional who is trying to figure out what is going wrong.