A leadership consultant examines business executive Andrea Jung’s tenure as Avon CEO and the lessons her rise to and fall from power offer those seeking to climb the corporate ladder.
Jung had no real desire to become CEO when she joined the venerable but staid Avon cosmetics corporation as a marketing consultant in 1993. But her exotic beauty, intelligence and charisma captivated everyone. So did her innovative, risk-taking style, which almost immediately began yielding profits for Avon. With the help of then-CEO Jim Preston, Jung became head of global marketing for Avon in 1996 and, not long afterward, company president and COO. Three years later, she was named CEO at a time when the company shares had plummeted and corporate takeover rumors abounded. Jung met the challenge by implementing ambitious plans to develop “higher quality…products than local markets could produce [while] also working with local managers [to help] them meet the needs of their customers.” Her visionary but often expensive initiatives fueled unparalleled growth and expansion. When Avon’s fortunes took a downward turn in 2005, she took the unprecedented step of firing herself and rehiring a leaner, meaner Jung. But as former Avon exec Himsel (Leadership Sopranos Style, 2003) notes, the same people-pleasing trait that had helped Jung at the outset of her career at Avon ultimately made her unable to impact corporate culture enough to make it as “accountable and performance-driven as it should have been.” Continued financial losses and scandals—including a Securities and Exchange Commission probe into financial improprieties in the Chinese market—led to her resignation in 2011. With insight and sensitivity, Himsel transforms Jung’s amazing story into a clearsighted study of how personal/professional characteristics, gender and corporate culture can impact the ultimate success or failure of even the most talented CEOs.
Incisive reading for both women and men about the dynamics of corporate leadership.