How Remarkable Women Lead

Book Review by Elyssa H. Barbash

Barsh, J., & Cranston, S. (2011). How remarkable women lead: The breakthrough model for work and life. New York: Crown Business.


Summary of Themes

This inspirational guidebook serves as a source of knowledge, life skills, and motivation for women who are aspiring to become prominent leaders in the workforce or those who are generally seeking more holistic fulfillment in their life. The authors of the book employed an abundance of research efforts, which they entitled The Centered Leadership Project, in order to cultivate a tangible model of self-actualization. The model was established to help leaders manage the path to success. It consists of five dimensions:

  1. Meaning

  2. Framing

  3. Connecting

  4. Engaging

  5. Energizing

Further, each component works together and strengthens the previous element. While the model serves to educate women on methods that increase career and personal achievement, it draws on the notion that women already encompass the proposed career-altering mindsets and behaviors. The book utilizes an easy-to-navigate model for reaching one’s maximum potential both within the workplace and in their personal life.


Through The Centered Leadership Project, Barsh and Cranston (2011) sought to identify common factors that remarkable, efficacious women possess in order to disseminate that information to others. The authors structured the text into five sections and 25 chapters, which reflect the synthesized elements of The Centered Leadership Project and elaborate on the five aforementioned dimensions. The publication contains a copious amount of personal anecdotes from women leaders around the globe who share their stories of opposition, insight, and triumph. For example, Emma Fundira experienced several challenges along her way to success. Emma, who was one of five children and born in Zambia, initially went to school to become a teacher, which was an accepted female career in Africa. However, knowing she wanted to stand out, she set out for a career in the “white man’s domain,” embracing the challenge that her young age, gender, and race presented. Today, she owns a financial advisory business and multiple properties.


Additionally, the authors provide supplementary segments which include a call to action, detailed information on The Centered Leadership Project, and a notes section. These sections can be useful to career counselors and clients as they provide suggestions for how to begin integrating the model into one’s life. Though written for a female audience, the book provides methods that can be employed by men as well. Moreover, the model aims to help women become more emotionally, intellectually, socially, and physically “centered”.


Historical Perspective and Critical Review

Thankfully, this book offers a 21st century view of women's potential in the work world. It could be quite interesting to explore a few original resources for women from the early years of career development. For example, in 1913, one of the vocational aids listed in the Journal of Education was “Vocations for the trained woman: opportunities other than teaching”. For other books for women from as much as 100 years ago, see the list of resources included at the end of this article. It is quite evident that professional resources for women have come a long way in the 100 years since our organization's inception.


Barsh and Cranston (2011) delivered a captivating, thorough, and empirically supported model of self-actualization that can be applied within the workplace and one’s personal life. In practice, a career counselor may be able to use the model with clients in sessions. For example, a counselor could conduct an initial assessment to evaluate where the client is within the framework of the model, and then plan treatment that addresses each stage of the model during consecutive sessions, with the goal of progressing through the entire model. Further, this book provides a compelling account of the omnipresent barriers that women are often faced with in the workplace, such as challenging both societal and industry norms, convincing others of your knowledge, learning how to give and accept tough love, and attaining work-life balance, which includes being a parent. The personal narratives included in the text were comprised of interviews with highly successful women (e.g., CEO’s, CFO’s). These narratives could be included in career counseling sessions in order to provide clients with anecdotes of how differing women, from an assortment of backgrounds, conquered career hurdles and attained success. In addition to personal anecdotes, the authors provided a reciprocal amount of practical suggestions that every working woman can employ to boldly accelerate forward and conquer hurdles, such as by practicing optimism, remaining flexible, adaptive, and purposeful.


The book calls upon women to contemplate each facet of the investigated model, build courage, and utilize the proposed techniques in order to find joy and meaning in life. In practice, a counselor could apply these techniques during in-session discussions, as well as integrate the model into homework activities and assign clients to read this book as bibliotherapy. Furthermore, the authors shared activities that were designed to allow the reader to engage in introspection, such as asking the profound, yet delicate question “What makes me happy?” and offering empirical methods for how to cognitively reframe existing beliefs in a positive manner. To draw on this, the authors shared positive psychology leader Martin Seligman’s theory on optimism, as well as other psychology practices that contribute to the goal of finding meaning in life.


As one may anticipate, Steger and Dik (2009) found that experiencing career meaning is consistent with general feelings of well-being and an overall sense of global meaning in life. In career counseling settings, particularly those where clients are new to the career development process (e.g., university career centers), counselors can reference this book when engaging the client in dialogue pertaining to vocation selection. Additionally, King, Hicks, Krull, and Del Gaiso (2006) concluded that having meaning in life directly correlates to increased happiness. While the authors advocate that “meaning” leads to increased satisfaction, energy, zest, creativity, leadership, and success, it can further be deduced that career achievement is a distinguished component of overall life satisfaction, a core element that most career development practitioners already embrace. Moreover, the authors produced a text that is germane for women worldwide and which contains an undertone of positivity and inspiration; after reading this text, one cannot help but feel provoked, energized, and resolute to speak up, stand out, and take risks in their personal and professional life. Furthermore, the call to action invites readers to conduct a self-inventory to identify their strengths, increase their self-awareness, identify skills to be developed, and apply the Centered Leadership Project’s model. Counselors and clients alike can benefit from this book as it aims to increase one’s performance and success, both professionally and personally.



King, L. A., Hicks, J. A., Krull, J. L., & Del Gaiso, A. K. (2006). Positive affect and the experience of meaning in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(1), 179-196. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.90.1.179


Steger, M. F. & Dik, B. J. (2009). If One is Looking for Meaning in Life, Does it Help to Find Meaning in Work? Applied Psychology: Health & Well-Being, 1(3), 303-320.8 30



Additional Historical Resources

Anonymous. (1926, November). A business woman. Atlantic Monthly, 639645.


Breckenridge, S.(1933). Women in the twentieth century: A study of the political, social and economic activities.New York: McGraw-Hill.


Dublin, L. I.(1926, September). Homemaking and careers. Atlantic Monthly, 335343.


Filene, E.(Ed.). (1920). Careers for women: New ideas, new methods, new opportunities to fit a new world. New York: Houghton Mifflin.


For the Girl Who Earns Her Own Living. (1905, June). Women's Home Companion, 32, p. 26.


Hatcher, O. L.(Ed.). (1927). Occupations for women. Richmond, VA: Southern Woman's Educational Alliance.


Laselle, M. A., &Wiley, K. E.(1913). Vocations for girls. New York: Houghton Mifflin.


Parsons, A. B.(1926). Woman's dilemma. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.


Pedersen, J. S. (1988), Constraining Influences on the Vocational Guidance of Girls from 1910 to 1930. The Career Development Quarterly, 36: 325–336. doi: 10.1002/j.2161-0045.1988.tb00503.x


Your Daughter's Career. (1915, July, August, October, November). Good Housekeeping, 61(Series).


Elyssa BarbashElyssa H. Barbash, MA, LMHC, NCC is a doctoral candidate in the Combined Program in Counseling Psychology and School Psychology at Florida State University. She received her masters degree in Counselor Education from the University of Central Florida. Her research interests include counselor training and development, counseling process and outcome, psychopathology treatment interventions, post-trauma coping and resiliency, crisis intervention, evidence-based practice, counselor training/supervision, and diagnosis and treatment. She can be reached at: elyssa.barbash@gmail.com