Behind the Book: Mary Kay on People Management

Mary Kay is known for cutting-edge beauty innovations, entrepreneurship opportunities and female empowerment across the world. However, Mary Kay Ash’s pink road to success wasn’t always so rosy. When Ash founded her namesake company, Mary Kay Cosmetics, in 1963, it was in response to years of seeing the men she trained receive promotions over her. In fact, on more than one occasion, after taking a male recruit on the road with her for six months, she returned with him to Texas only to see him promoted above her at twice her salary. Frustrated and disheartened, Mary Kay Ash set out to create a company where “thinking like a woman” was an asset, not an insult.

Book Cover Art Flat

Today, Mary Kay’s salesforce is a community of millions of independent beauty consultants and female entrepreneurs in nearly 40 countries. They have embraced Mary Kay Ash’s leadership philosophies and are breaking down barriers for women across the globe. Through her Golden Rule and people-first management principles, Mary Kay Ash has helped countless women pave a path of independence, financial security and entrepreneurship. More than anything, her understanding of women’s needs allowed her to create flexible opportunities with unlimited potential.

Mary Kay speaking to seminar audience

It was this philosophy and understanding that led to the great success of her renowned book, Mary Kay on People Management, which is being republished this year in celebration of its 35th anniversary. The book outlines the management principles on which Mary Kay Ash based her company and overwhelming success.

When examining today’s workforce, it is clear that the principles from Mary Kay on People Management remain as relevant today as they were when she was building her multibillion-dollar beauty empire. Especially as the next generation of workers is beginning to enter the workforce.


Gen Z is a generation that describes themselves as hopeful, anxious, hardworking and searching for inspiration. Anxiety has been listed as their biggest barrier to professional success, which is why the generation values support and trust in a manager. According to a recent study (Workforce Institute, 2019), nearly a third of Gen Z is motivated to work harder and stay longer at a company if they have a supportive manager. They understand the importance of managers showing sincere appreciation and valuing their work. Unfortunately, many workers are saying they are not receiving this support.


In her book, Mary Kay Ash outlines the core management principles she relied on as a manager and leader. It is no coincidence that these tenets which led to her entrepreneurial success remain exactly what employees want to see from a manager. Her philosophy of care, consideration and kindness give aspiring leaders a toolkit to build a highly motivated workforce.

Principles from Mary Kay on People Management include:

You Build with People
Managers are dependent upon the performance of their people, and so is a company’s success. Good people are a company’s most important asset. People are more important than the plan. A good company is known for “the people it keeps.”

The Invisible Sign
Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from his or her neck saying, MAKE ME FEEL IMPORTANT! Never forget this message when working with people.

Praise People to Success
Each of us craves recognition. Let people know that you appreciate their performance and they will respond by doing even better. Recognition is the most powerful of all motivating techniques.

The Art of Listening
Good managers are good listeners. God gave us two ears and only one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak. When you listen, the benefit is twofold: You receive necessary information, and you make the other person feel important.

Recently, Forbes named Mary Kay to its lists of America’s Best Employers for Diversity and America’s Best Midsize Employers, both honors that celebrates the company’s continued dedication to and implementation of Mary Kay Ash’s values and management style.MaryKayPaperback

In honor of the book’s 35th anniversary, 35% of all profits from the sale of Mary Kay on People Management will go directly to the Mary Kay Foundation, which was created in 1996 to help advocate on behalf of women and supporting causes relevant to their wellbeing. The foundation is dedicated to funding cancer research and ending the cycle of domestic violence through women’s shelter grants and awareness programs.

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