Reaching the Summit: Leadership Lessons from Successful Women – Rosalind Brewer

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At Summit we believe that lessons from great leaders can help shine a light on leadership for the future.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we highlight Rosalind Brewer. An American businesswoman, Rosalind Brewer, the current COO of Starbucks, will take over the role as CEO of Walgreens later this month. This appointment makes her the only black woman currently leading a Fortune 500 firm and the third black woman in history to serve as a Fortune 500 CEO. In 2019 she also became the only black woman to sit on the board of Amazon.

Rosalind spent 22 years at Kimberly-Clark, where she began her career as a chemist, eventually working her way up the ladder to become a sector vice-president. She joined Wal-Mart in 2006 as a regional vice president and became the division president of Wal-Mart’s Southeast market.  She was named President and CEO of Sam’s Club in 2012. With this appointment, she became the first African American to lead a division of Wal-Mart. Rosalind became the COO of Starbucks in 2017. At Starbucks, Rosalind bolstered sustainability initiatives that included the use of a reusable version of the holiday cup. Before her time at Starbucks, Rosalind helped Sam’s Club jump into the modern era with services such as online ordering and doubled the amount of organic products offered.

After speaking at Leadership Atlanta, Rosalind talked about the six points of her leadership philosophy:

  1. Create a clear vision for your team and inspire them to march toward it.
  2. Live the values you want to instill in your organization.
  3. Be ready to lead. Be prepared to follow when you’re not the leader.
  4. Lead for change.
  5. Keep it simple and consistent.
  6. Own your mistakes. Communicate a lot, early, and often, and have a plan for how to correct your mistakes.

Rosalind also gave advice on how to lead your team toward a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), and her principles are as follows:

  1. Provide a clear roadmap.
  2. Use intensity in showing your passion for the goal and why it is a priority.
  3. Set clear milestones to set a path for success.
  4. Monitor progress frequently, but don’t micromanage.

Rosalind also attributes gaining success as a leader by being a “whole person” who balances family, community, and work.

Sometimes it is hard as a leader to know what decisions to make. Rosalind acts as an inspiration to not only all women but also women of color, reassuring them that reaching the summit is possible. Her philosophy not only helps us better understand how to be a great leader but serves as an inspiration.


  • 48th on Power Women by Forbes (2020)
  • Spelman College Legacy of Leadership Award (2017)
  • 15th on Most Powerful Women List of September (2015)
  • 50 Most Powerful Women in Business by Fortune Magazine
  • 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes (2013)
  • Most Powerful Black Women by Forbes (2013)
  • Most Powerful Working Moms by Working Mother (2013)

Quotes by Rosalind Brewer:

“You can and should set your own limits and clearly articulate them. This takes courage, but it is also liberating and empowering, and often earns you new respect.”

“I want young girls to realize that the possibilities are big. They can be race car drivers. They can be astronauts. They can be CEOs.”


“Rosalind Brewer.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine,