Lessons from the Most Influential Women Middle-Market CEOs

Always look toward the long-term, take risks and find your own personal voice. Those are just some of the ways in which the most influential women of the middle market have become successful and remain so consistently.

women CEOsHere is a deeper dive into what makes the top five successful, and some lessons other mid-market CEOs, male and female, can learn from them.

  1. Tory Burch. “Some advice is best ignored.” Burch, who is chairman, CEO, and designer of American sportswear and the lifestyle brand in her name, disregarded advice she was given early on and launched her first boutique on the day the company’s merchandise made its debut in the marketplace. She wanted to establish a “powerful platform for brand storytelling” from the start, according to Business of Fashion, and it worked—almost everything sold out immediately. Tory Burch apparel, accessories, and footwear are sold in 150 corporate stores and 3,000 department and specialty stores worldwide; the company also has an e-commerce site and an e-zine. Consistently ranked on Forbes’ The World’s Most Powerful Women list, Burch attributes much of her company’s success to careful decision-making. “Every decision we make is about the long-term and how it will affect the brand five, 10 years from now,” she told Business of Fashion.
  1. Ranjini Poddhar. “Take risks.” Co-founder and CEO of Artech Information Systems LLC, Poddhar started her business when IT outsourcing was somewhat new. Artech now generates annual revenues of more than $400 million. In an interview with NJBiz, Poddhar cited the top five things successful women always do well. They “find their voice”; persevere instead of taking gender-based issues personally; set their objectives and work hard; and look for women around them to inspire and lift up. “Also, you have to be an independent thinker and a risk-taker,” she said.
“Our new world order,” she told the publication, “is forcing different kinds of leadership.”
  1. Judy R. McReynolds. “Forget being a female.” Chairman, president, and CEO of multi-billion-dollar freight and logistics services company ArcBest Corporation, McReynolds is credited with taking the organization from offering core less-than-truckload services to becoming an all-inclusive provider by adding non-asset-based and asset-light businesses. She considers this her top achievement there, according to Fleet Owner. In a New York Times column, McReynolds said she had determined early in her executive tenure that she wouldn’t let gender be an issue. “Take on tough assign­ments” and do an excellent job; you will be recognized for your good work,” she told Fleet Owner.
  1. Martine Rothblatt. “Reject ‘no’.” Rothblatt is chairperson and co-CEO of United Therapeutics and president and CEO of its Lung Biotechnology public benefit company. She previously created and led Sirius XM as its chairman and CEO after launching satellite navigational and international satellite television systems. The world’s “best-known transgender CEO,” according to Forbes, Rothblatt founded United Therapeutics after her young daughter was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension, a rare, life-threatening disease. She learned GlaxoSmithKline had a molecule that “had promise” for treating the condition, she told Forbes, but the company declined to use it to produce the appropriate drug. Rothblatt didn’t give up until a champion there consented to move forward. She believes every workplace should be more “proud to be different, with a greater emphasis on continuing education, and not just in a person’s specific job area.”
  1. Diane Sullivan. “Seek empowerment everywhere.” President, chairman and CEO of footwear manufacturing powerhouse Calleres, Inc., Sullivan never thought of herself as a female leader as she ascended the ranks of her company, and doesn’t now. “I think of myself as a leader,” she told Footwear News. “It was always about what I aspired to do, how I followed my heart, what I thought I’d be good at.” On the importance of motivating one’s team, Sullivan holds that there must be empowerment throughout an organization, with many individuals leading the way. “Our new world order,” she told the publication, “is forcing different kinds of leadership.”

The Most Influential Women of the Middle Market list recognizes the top 25 women in the U.S., based on their ability to influence change, innovation, and standards for excellence in companies with annual sales of $100 million and $3 billion. Clearly, these five fit the bill.



  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events