The Little Black Book of Success - Official Website

On Sale Now


Elaine Meryl Brown, Marsha Haygood, and Rhonda Joy McLean, three dynamic corporate veterans founded L.E.A.D.S. Leadership Excellence and Development Strategies LLC.

L.E.A.D.S. provides:
·      Lunch and Learn
·      Workshop programs
·      Presentations
·      Motivational Speaking

Corporations Include: Time Warner, Johnson & Johnson, American Express, JP Morgan Chase, ESPN, Warner Bros

Non-Profits Include: National Organization for Women, NY Women¹s Foundation, Boys & Girls Club, Coalition of 100 Black Women, Links Foundation, National
Bar Association

Contact us.

Interview at the Congressional Black Caucus Click here

The Book

Excerpt | Praise | Press | Fan Feedback | Website Workshop

Straightforward and prescriptive advice from three high-powered black female executives who have been there, done that, and now want to help you tap into your leadership potential, featuring such chapters as:

Foreword by Angela Burt-Murray, Editor-in-Chief, Essence magazine.

Back to Top


From the Introduction

Given how much progress women of African descent have made since the civil rights and women's rights movements—especially in the past decade, as companies have grown more diverse—it would be easy to think challenges in the workplace don't exist. Wrong! Nearly 40 percent of Black women report that they don't have other Black women who can serve as role models. Studies show that during the past decade Black women have made the smallest gains with regard to employment and high-level positions. For the few who have achieved success in the workplace, their greatest obstacle has been making their organizations acknowledge the value of their skills and contributions. Today's Black women have jobs and careers, yet many don't realize the inherent leadership potential they possess that can help them grow professionally. Much has been written about leadership, but there are no books specifically for Black women on this topic, one that identifies and addresses issues unique to Black women, the work place obstacles they encounter, and challenges they can overcome.

As women of color, we live in a culture that is part of a larger society—a dominant culture. Each culture has its own set of mores, traditions, and values. These values, attitudes, and ideologies that are inherent in our communities have been passed down through generations and make our culture unique, particularly given our people's historical experiences in this country. This book identifies some things we tend to do that may differ from the dominant culture as we operate in the corporate workplace. Rather than focusing on assimilation, we think it is more important that you understand your own behaviors and how they may work for or against you, so that you can maximize your leadership potential. Let's face it. We're all bicultural—having our own culture within a dominant culture. This handbook provides insights into understanding how you can become more self- aware and achieve your leadership goals. Beginning with the premise that we're all VIPs with differing degrees of awareness, The Little Black Book of Success shares insights into workplace issues, pitfalls, and impediments, and offers applicable solutions for women, no matter at what stage of their career. Each chapter builds on the VIP lessons by elucidating leadership truths coupled with prescriptive examples. We talk about the behaviors we have observed in the workplace that work to our advantage and those that keep us from advancing. The Cultural Code sections include the kinds of things we tend to do from a cultural perspective to sabotage ourselves and then prescribe methods to help us be successful.

Each chapter concludes with "MAMAisms," which bring the lessons home by giving entirely new relevance to aphorisms readers have heard all of their lives from their mother, grandmother, or other family members, presenting them in the context of leadership development. The premise here is that even if Mama was not in the corporate world, she gave us life lessons we can draw upon. MAMAisms are those familiar terms, both practical and spiritual, that we grew up with and can draw upon as we travel the road to leadership success.

We hope that this isn't a book you read once and store on your bookshelf, leaving it to collect dust, but one that you keep on hand and review regularly to help you reach your leadership goals or serve as a reminder of what to do when things get tough. We have been working a long time in many different jobs and industries and have tried to learn from our mistakes as well as our achievements as we advanced in our careers. Our combined experience can help you avoid making some of the mistakes we made as you build a strong foundation of professionalism in your work and develop the tools you will need for leadership success. So, whether you are just starting out in the workplace or already have a leadership role, get ready to change your life!

Back to Top


"[The Little Black Book of Success] offers invaluable insight for anyone ready to step up and take the reins."

"[A] great resource to get (or keep) your career on track. Elaine Meryl Brown, Marsha Haygood and Rhonda Joy McLean are mentors in your pocket."
-Heart & Soul

"The Little Black Book of Success is, without a doubt, one of the most comprehensive and relevant books that women can read to achieve the job success they desire. It answers the tough questions, offers experience-based insights, and outlines strategies that are sure to make you a front-runner in the race to workplace excellence."
-Elaine McCollins Flake,
Co-Pastor, Greater Allen Cathedral

"Elaine Brown, Marsha Haygood and Rhonda McLean have compiled a dynamite, relevant, wisdom-filled book that offers real time, relevant "mama-isms," and tools for learning and exercising leadership in competitive corporate environments. This tool is a keeper!"
-Carla A. Harris, author of
Expect to Win

"Finally: a small but extremely powerful book full of successful business and lifestyle rules written by women of color."
-B. Smith

"Life lessons to stay in the game of life."
-Terrie M. Williams, author of
The Personal Touch:
What You Really Need To Succeed
in Today's Fast-Paced Business World

"Good counsel comes to us in myriad ways. The Little Black Book of Success clearly qualifies as one. It’s chock full of sound and thoughtful advice on how to build a successful business career. I commend it not just to black women, but to anyone seeking wisdom on leadership and success."
-Richard Parsons, Chairman, Citigroup

Back to Top


Deborah Owens/Wealthy Lifestyle Show, WEAA 88.9fm (NPR affiliate) - August 3, 2010

The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI - May 14, 2010

NPR - April 20, 2010

New York Daily News - March 15, 2010

Weekend Today in New York - Saturday, March 13th, 6am –7am on channel 4 – WNBC-TV

USA Today - March 1, 2010

USA Today - March 1, 2010

Essence - March 2010

Heart and Soul - February/March 2010

Back to Top

Fan Feedback

I selected the book as required reading, because I wanted students to see what real leadership looks like. Moreover, I wanted students to see the success skills from the twentieth century to modern day. The course is titled, "African American Women Leaders in the Civil Rights Movement." Thank you.

Vanessa A. Holloway, CUNY Medgar Evers College

I want to take the time to thank you and all of the women who have used their knowledge and experiences to craft “The Little Black Book of Success”.

I remember being introduced to the book as a college sophomore by a family member. After briefly scanning through the book I was fascinated by the tips and scenarios you developed and knew right away that I needed my own copy.

Now as a college graduate, I still find the “MAMAisms” tips valuable as I navigate through my professional career.

Nathalie Cazeau

I hope this email finds you in good spirits. Just wanted to send you a note and to thank you for the knowledge that is provided in your book, "The Little Black Book of Success." This book has changed my life. I am so upset that for the last 6 1/2 years I have been blind to office politics. I am a 31 year old business professional who works in the accounting field. I come to work each day, mind my business, and do my job. I had to learn the hard way that this way of doing things is not good enough to rise in the business world. No one has been honest with me and I prayed to GOD to speak to me. I then found "The Little Black Book of Success."

SB, Washington DC

Hi All, I downloaded the audio version of The Little Black Book Of Success via Audible. It was my best friend that told me about your book and even though I, myself, am white, I find your book very motivating for my professional career. Even though this book addresses African Americans, I not only have been raised around blacks most of my life, but I also feel that the book really put into perspective some feelings and "animosities" I may have harbored against "others". I have a hearing disability and have many times felt "isolated" because of that. So, I felt this book was speaking directly to me, personally. This book, again, has been a great motivational tool for me and I plan on reading it multiple times to ensure I gain all the tools I can possible attain from this small, but powerful book and use those tools within my personal and professional life. Thank you for producing a wonderful book that actually has touched multiple different people across the globe, including those with disabilities that "others" may not understand. Many Blessing to You!  

Hi Marsha
I believe your book is a handy reference tool for those of us in leadership or aspiring to be in leadership roles. I just listened to it. 4CD's. It is a good read. Confirmation of stuff we probably know, some new stuff and a reminder to do what we know to do but haven't done. It also confirms that other sisters are having the same experiences we are having. You are not alone! Something to pass on to those coming behind us.  

I just needed to let you and your partners know that your book spoke to me on so many different levels.  I laughed, I had aha moments and thought of the mothers in my life as I read the mama isms.  Page after page, I kept saying to my self that this book was written specifically for me.  Needless to say the no brainer gift to my friends was a copy of the book as I kept texting them and calling them on the phone to give them bits and parts of the book. Thank you and the ladies for putting pen to paper and birthing this awesome book.  
Shandeeyaky Shabazz
Branch Manager
Dress for Success

Just wanted to say thank you so much for the book of inspiration. I read the whole book on the plane. I purchased your book just to support African-American women. I had no idea that the book would be a life-changing situation for me. It made me aware of so many situations. I wish I had a book or a mentor during my career-development stages.

I have told all of my friends about the book.

– La Faye Baker

Hey Elaine:

I just want to thank you and the ladies for writing this book. My favorite chapter also is "Networking".  I truly believe it is the foundation of building any career or business. The others are "Bring Your Brand to the Table" and "Reach Back and Bring Others". These chapters are so powerful and very helpful. I wish you could get this book to all the HBCUs.  They will need it as they join the work force.

– Kearn Cherry

Hello Rhonda ­ I hope you don¹t mind if an old white guy takes some inspiration from your book.

In my graduate studies I¹m currently taking a rather dreary course entitled Leadership and Management in which the text and the professor are focused on the concept that ³leadership is a process rather than an individual.² So far we¹ve been inundated with academic terms to support the theme, none of which get to the heart of the matter that you cover on page oneŠ²the most critical aspect of leadership is self-esteemŠ²

Your admonishment that ³there is a game and accept that you must play² is a lesson I¹ve been trying to teach my son for years. I pointed him to your book in the hopes that you¹ll get through to him.

And the MAMAisms peppered throughout the book are priceless gems that we learned (if we were lucky enough to have them) from our parents. My source was my mother in law.

I¹m going to pass the book around to my staff ­ I see glimpses of each of them in your book and I think they¹ll find it as rewarding as I did.

– Paul

I’m certainly recommending the book as a stocking stuffer this holiday season. Your book’s MAMAisms sound a lot like the “MAMA and PAPAisms” in my household growing up. To have such common sense and wisdom in one place is a good thing - not only for those starting out, but for many of us further along in our careers as well.

I’ve read up to chapter 8 (“Aretha Was Right: R-E-S-P-E-C-T”), and I must tell you that I’ve enjoyed every page. Although you and your friends wrote the book with black women in mind, any person of color can learn a few lessons from it. I particularly appreciate your “Cultural Code” sections, as understanding what’s written in those sections can provide a depth and understanding needed when facing situations or experiences that don’t always seem fair.

– Monty


It was a pleasure to meet you last week at the Financial District Borders after your book signing. I was touched by your compassion and inspired by the story you shared about your experiences working at a law firm. Some of my friends who were unable to attend the signing picked up autographed copies from the store. Your message is definitely one that we need to hear. Young professional women of color resonate with the leadership advice and "Mamaisms." I wish you continued success with your book and online media presence.

Warmest regards,

– Ayana

From The Learning Annex Event:


Your seminar event was more than time well spent. It was cathartic to know how far I've come--I didn't have the words until Wednesday to express all that "office mammy" stuff I did.  It served the people well and definitely boosted my leadership ego, but I did too much and my career track suffered, as a result. (You live and learn and grow and hindsight is always 20/20).It's a relief to know (by reading your book) that I'm on the right track in certain areas -- as an entrepreneur -- and then to have the book provide a tactical strategy for other areas that is so specific to being a Black woman in leadership.
I love, luv, L-O-V-E, that you all are down-to-earth, keep it real and aren't arrogant and elitist (so many Black women who rise to the top and talk to those who are still on the climb have an air about them).  You all are relatable.  You've always been but I'm so happy to hear and see your compassion and concern.  There's just not enough of those traits among folks who speak on leadership.
Just wanted to send you a note to let you know how fabulous you are. You're changing lives and inspiring Black women. I'm immensely proud and inspired.  Thanks again and I'm really lovin' the book.

– Mable Ivory, ABR
Senior Licensed Sales Associate

Marsha - I am reading your book and loving it!  I wish I had this guide 20 years ago!  (I actually thought about it a few times while I was at work today.)  I know it offers leadership laws for black women, but I find it to be helpful, as well, being a woman in the workforce!  Also, although the chapters are quick, they are full of valuable information.  

Congratulations!  It is a work to be proud of...and it is very cool that I could go to Barnes & Noble for a book that you wrote! 

– D.Melisi

Hello Elaine, My name is Andrea Johnson and your cousin Vanessa Small gave me your contact information. Vanessa was a student in 2 of my courses this summer. I wanted to let you know that I read your book and it is absolutely awesome. What is amazing is that I saw it by accident. I was on my way out of Barnes and Nobles and just happened to look to my right and the little black book caught my attention. I immediately picked it up and knew it was something I needed. I really loved how the chapters were really short and to the point along with the cultural codes and MAMAisms. The information was definitely confirmation for me in many areas and it inspired me as well as challenged me to continue to press on in the areas I need to improve in. Last year I received my Ph.D. in Leadership Studies and this book was the icing on the cake. As the saying goes "when the student is ready the teacher will appear" and I was definitely in a place where I was ready to receive this information. I will continue to spread the word about this wonderful book to other African American women.
- Andrea N. Johnson
Ph.D. Department of Sociology/Social Work North Carolina A&T State University

Last night's event was outstanding, thanks to the three of you.  Audience members were approaching us afterward saying things like "thank you so much for hosting this" and "I want to get more involved in working for women's rights."  I've attended many great NOW-NYC events, but I felt that last night's event was in a class by itself in terms of the positive energy from the speakers, the terrific substance of your presentation, and the really enthusiastic audience response.  I can only imagine the time and energy that events like this must demand from you, and I think the audience members reaped huge benefits from your generous gifts of time, information, wisdom, humor, and sisterhood.  

I hope we work together again soon!  Thank you again for a memorable, exceptional event.  
-Jane Manning
President, National Organization for Women, NYC Chapter

All I can say is WOW! You three ROCK! The feedback we have gotten from last night’s event is more positive than any educational program I’ve been a part of in the five years I’ve been working at NOW.

We can’t thank you enough. So many people were inspired and the three of you are so complementary and clearly you are filling a big void. The unique experiences and contributions of black women in corporate America haven’t been talked about enough – until now that is.

Thank you so much for all that you are doing to reach out to and help women succeed. I can’t thank you enough for giving our group your valuable time, your warmth and caring and your indispensible advice.

Please let me know if there’s anything I and NOW can do for you. Thank you again such a powerful program last night.

-Sonia Ossorio
Executive Director, National Organization for Women, NYC Chapter

I just finished "The Little Black Book of Success" and wanted you (and your collaborators) to know how much I enjoyed it.  While it was written with Black women in mind, I found that much of the direction given could apply to any woman.  Being an older woman, I found myself thinking, Wow, so much of this makes perfect sense, almost second nature, that I wish we had something like this way back when. I especially loved all the "Mamaisms," and how well they could apply to our everyday work/play life.
-Lisa Bullard, NY

Thank you for putting me in touch with my Inner Black Woman!!  Your book is "must reading" for everyone who is engaged in the world today and it's lessons and insights are indeed beyond color and speak to us all.  Kudos to you and thank you for a wonderful reading experience!
-Michael Palladino
College Professor - NYC

Very nice. The blog talk gave really good points on, how I should handle and respond to uncomfortable situations at my job. Thanks. This was right on time. I love the mommaisms! Straighten up that face! That's me. I have to always remember that. Thanks again.

Just wanted to thank you for inviting me to the book signing yesterday. I really enjoyed listening to you and Rhonda share excerpts from the The Little Black Book of Success. I realized that you aren't just promoting a book, but an experience. Women are resonating with your message and engaging in conversations that can empower them to reach the next level. What an exciting way to share your passion. I look forward to seeing you spread your "mama-isms"on Oprah real soon.
-Cathy C. Smith

Dear Rhonda: Many, many kudos to you and your writing partners. Your book is so attractive outside and oh so full of wisdom inside. I just wish that this book had been available during my working days.

I'm a retired Court Reporter from NY State Supreme Court and Pat Neal turned me onto you quite sometime ago. I would loved to have been able to attend one of the book signings but other commitments prevailed. Pat's email to me, describing the event in Harlem, sounded so exciting that it filled me with envy; particularly since I am a self-publisher myself, having had only one real book signing and that was in California.

Here's wishing the very best to you, Ms Brown and Ms Haygood. Bask in every minute. I do have your book; I've read my favorite chapters, and I'm going to purchase two more copies as gifts, trying to help you reach your goal.
-Eleanor Speer

Rhonda, I did enjoy this....but not as much as I'm enjoying The Little Black Book of Success. I am SO proud of you. I certainly wish I had a book like this as a resource when I was moving up the ladder. I have one for my daughter, and I'll order another for HER daughter. A TREMENDOUS thank you to you, Elaine and Marsha for sharing your insights and offering this meaningful advice.
-Enid Krieger

I just bought The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women and I want to personally say thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with those of us who are "up and coming" in our careers. Unfortunately many of us, including myself, lack true mentors when it comes to career and personal development so this is a great opportunity for us to get such great insight from powerful Black women leaders.

I just started reading the book today and I am going to purchase my PLN tomorrow! Once again, thank you for reminding me that I am a VIP and to not let anything hinder my inner spirit. I am looking forward to finishing this book and I'm sure it's going to be something that I value for the rest of my life.
-Maria Melendez

I have been anxiously awaiting the book release and finally, March 2nd is here! I have been reading for a couple hours and have completed the ninth chapter and decided to do two things:

1- Pause. Reflect upon what I have learned before I digest too much, too quickly and forget critical pearls of wisdom.

2-Write you to say "Thank you!" So far, so excellent! There are many young women, like myself, who are in need of a professional mentor in the purse or just a good "talking to" as you three have done for me.

I am ecstatic about finishing, re-read to gage progress, and paying it forward to others.

If the three of you would ever venture to Norfolk, VA for a book signing, appearance, or the like, WE WELCOME YOU.
-Blair Presley

Thank You for this book. I have been waiting for a leadership book tailored towards Black Women.
-Pamela Nelson

I am already inspired by this book by only reading an excerpt. I have been an employee at a company for 13 years and a supervisor for almost 2 years. I thought I was playing it safe by remaining in my position for over 10 years because the lay offs almost never happened and the money was good. Now I have stepped out of my comfort zone into a leadership role and things are beginning to become a little uncomfortable for me because of all the politics I never knew existed. I am ready for position. I just want to know how to play the game before the game plays me.
-J. Davis-Williams

I saw your book on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, picked it up, took a look at it, and bought one copy for myself, and for my mother, who is an elementary school principal. I really love it. Now here's the weird part: We're actually hispanic, not black! But do you know what? I'm finding that many of your rules also apply to us. The one thing I would like to add, also, to your list of things to remember is this: "Swallow your pride, and be brave enough to remediate yourself in any area. Don't be afraid to admit your weaknesses, but then do what you can to fix them." So black and hispanics should always be on guard to avoid the "insufficient prerequisite trap", and take it upon themselves to remediate themselves as much as possible!

I'm not a latin-a, I'm latin-o. :-) So your book even crosses gender lines, if that brightens your day even more.
-Ronnie Gonzalez, Florida

Back to Top

Website Workshop

To Begin: Write the answers to your responses in your PLN (Personal Leadership Notebook) to keep track of your notes and progress. Your PLN can be any notebook or journal dedicated to your Leadership journey.

Avoid the Ostrich Syndrome

You know how to do your job, but how much do you know about the following:
  1. Write down the infrastructure and operations of your department.
  2. Write down the core function of each department within  your company.
  3. List the various decisions or changes that have occurred in your industry in the past 6 months.
  4. List your company’s competitors, and name the CEO’s.
  5. List the recent business press  in the news about your company.
  6. List the recent business press  in the news about your company’s competitors.
  7. What are the business trends currently affecting your company and your industry?
  8. What business challenges do you believe keeps your manager and CEO up at night?
  9. Write down how expanding your knowledge helps you do a better job and be creative to come up with solutions to problems.
  10. Write down how expanding your knowledge helps you develop new ideas to do your work more efficiently.
To learn more about avoiding the Ostrich Syndrome to tap into your leadership potential and achieve your leadership goals, read The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women..

Order Now:

Back to Top