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Tough Cookies: Leadership Lessons from 100 Years of the Girl Scouts

ISBN: 978-1-118-00004-5
192 pages
October 2011
Tough Cookies: Leadership Lessons from 100 Years of the Girl Scouts (1118000048) cover image


Fundamental principles for how Girl Scouts USA is run and why it's so successful

Millions of American businesswomen, thought leaders, and politicians received their first lessons in salesmanship, money management, marketing, teamwork, and fulfillment in the Girl Scouts. The Girls Scouts has shaped the lives of more than 50 million alumnae alive today. Eighty percent of American female senior business executives and business owners are former Girl Scouts. In March 2012, the Girl Scouts will celebrate their 100th anniversary. Tough Cookies captures the essence of this iconic organization and the principles that have allowed them to build and sustain a 100-year-old organization.

Under current CEO Kathy Cloninger's leadership, the Girl Scouts has transformed and enhanced its ability to develop leadership in young women. Tough Cookies outlines the rise of the Girl Scouts, this recent and dramatically successful shift, and lessons that are applicable to make any business or organization a success.

  • An inspiring story of the Girl Scouts founding, along with leadership and business lessons that can be applied to organizations of any size
  • No other organization compares to Girl Scouts in size, experience, and resources devoted to developing leadership skills
  • Publication coincides with the 100-year anniversary of GSUSA

What can your business learn from the Girl Scouts?

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments ix

1 Leadership out of Balance 1

2 How I Got Here 15

3 Talk Less, Listen More 37

4 A Logical Conclusion 57

5 Facing the Brutal Truths 73

6 "Trust Me, This Is Going to Work" 91

7 What to Keep, and What to Let Go 113

8 Oh, Yeah? Prove It! 131

9 Shaking the Money Tree 145

10 Girl Scout, Phone Home 157

About the Author 169

Index 171

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Author Information

Kathy Cloninger is the CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA). She is a recognized expert on, and advocate for, girls' and women's issues and a recognized leader in the not-for-profit sector. She serves on boards of the National Human Services Assembly of the National Council for Research on Women, American Humanics, and Leadership 18. She was named an NPT Power and Influence Top 50 by the NonProfit Times in 2007, 2008, and 2009.
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Press Release

October 11, 2011
The Girl Scout Movement: How 18 Girls Became 50 Million Women

The Girls Scouts organization has shaped the lives of more than 50 million alumnae alive today, among them many of our nation’s female leaders. A national poll of American women, in fact, found that two-thirds of women of professional achievement and more than three-fourths of those who were deemed “women of distinction” had been Girl Scouts in their youth. The same poll found that more than four out of five successful professional women who had been Girl Scouts rated their Girl Scout involvement as helping them achieve later success.

In other words, the Girl Scouts stand for much more than cookies, camping, and crafts. There is no other organization remotely comparable in size, experience, and resources devoted to developing the leadership in girls.  Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, tells their story in the new book - Tough Cookies: Leadership Lessons from 100 Years of the Girl Scouts (Wiley; 9781118000045; $24.95; October 2011; Hardcover & E-Book).

Girl Scouts of the USA is gearing up to celebrate its 100th Anniversary in March 2012.  Helping to kick off “The Year of the Girl”, November 8-13th will be the Girl Scouts 2011 National Council Session/52nd Convention in Houston, Texas.  The organization was founded by Juliette Gordon Low of Savannah, Georgia, who imagined that Girl Scouting could be "the magic thread" that would connect girls everywhere—and for 50 million women, the ties have never been stronger.

TOUGH COOKIES addresses one of our nation’s most underused resources:  Girls, and the women they ultimately can become. Kathy Cloninger makes a convincing case for the enormous untapped potential of America’s girls and issues a ringing call to action to girls, boys, parents, the business community, and public to help females make a better, stronger, and more prosperous future for all.

Cloninger underlines her point with two very personal transformation stories. Cloninger, the first member of her family to attend college, was originally advised by her high-school counselor to set her sights on secretarial school. However, her instincts led to college, then to graduate school, to an extremely successful non-profit career, and finally to her appointment as chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA.

The other story is that of an iconic but fading American institution that under Cloninger’s galvanizing leadership transformed itself into an envied and widely imitated model of non-profit management excellence. She renewed and revitalized the organization’s commitment to developing girls' leadership capabilities, and implemented a new strategic business plan affecting every major area of organizational activity: programs, volunteerism, brand, funding, and structure/governance.

Under Kathy Cloninger’s leadership, Girl Scouts has completed a nationwide merger of local affiliates. This restructuring effort, virtually unprecedented in the nonprofit sector, has greatly enhanced the organization's ability to deliver programs and services to girls.

The TOUGH COOKIES story is not only a celebration of leadership, citizenship, service, confidence and character but a testament to a movement that continues to transform lives and multiply across the globe.

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