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Women Leadership: What is Your Secret Sauce?

Women leadership

Women Leadership: What is Your Secret Sauce?

CEO Coaching Int’l · 6 Ways the CEO Can Generate BIG Sales

On this special episode of the CEO Coaching International Podcast, coach Cynthia Cleveland leads a powerhouse panel of six women who are founders and CEOs. They discuss the unique challenges women face in executive roles, how they’re trying to cultivate the next generation of women leaders, and the “super powers” that have helped each of them Make BIG Happen in a diverse group of industries. 


Cynthia Cleveland


Cynthia Cleveland is a coach at CEO Coaching International. She’s a five-time CEO/President who’s led companies that have generated over $4 billion in worldwide sales across consumer products, entertainment, and retail. Her 30+ year career has spanned well-known companies including Universal Studios, Mattel Toys, and Teleflora gifts, driving significant growth and profitability. She’s led companies ranging from Fortune 500s to private for-profit companies to launching her own start-ups.

Cynthia Cleveland on using opportunity as a retention tool for top talent:

“The job market is as tight as it’s ever been. People like money. That will change a few, but that’ll change a few for a minute, because there’s always going to be another shiny object. People are going to stay where they feel valued. And with the world continuing to change, if you are providing people with continuous growth opportunities, that could be all of our secret sauces for every business, not just women-led businesses. All businesses are going to have to pay more attention to that.”


Kirsten Dermer


Kirsten Dermer is the CEO of Spohn Ranch, a business she started in high school! Today, Spohn Ranch has grown into an award-winning skateboard park design-build firm with projects in 15 countries around the world. Kirsten has also twice served as President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Entrepreneurs Organization, an internationally renowned association of successful business owners.

Kirsten Dermer on appreciating differences to build more empowering culture:

“My industry is very male dominated. I think that we have done a really good job of building a culture of mutual respect and admiration. And I have really focused on everyone in the company as an individual, to foster a culture of mutual appreciation and understanding. Going through the various types of personality tests gives each person a deeper understanding of themselves and their own motivations, but it also gives them an appreciation for the differences among the team and how we all come together and create a whole picture as opposed to a bunch of robots that all are exactly the same. And then from there, focusing on really developing and empowering, educating, creating kind of a custom development plan for each person that makes the most sense based on where they’re starting from.”


Joanne Starkman


Joanne Starkman is the co-founder of Innersense, the cleanest haircare products on the market. The company was founded in 2005 when Joanne saw a need for cleaner products without chemicals. Joanne is now venturing into color without chemicals.

Joanne Starkman on the power of being present: 

“I think back to myself as a young stylist, and I think one of the things that really shifted my business immensely was having this epiphany about vulnerability. I had this really strong mask on behind the chair and really just wanted to be super, super professional all the time. And then, this thing kind of went off in me that, I guess it’s okay if I share a little bit of myself and become more present. And my business just flourished. I think that there’s nothing more powerful than being present, and I think people can feel it.”


Alex Loback


Alex Loback is President of Darcoid, which is a provider of high-performance seals found in critical products ranging from Aerospace (including Space X) to high performance vehicles to submarines. Alex had no plans to join the family business but came to “help out” and found she had a talent for optimizing processes and influencing the team to create company growth.

Alex Loback on seizing opportunity and growing into a leader:

“I’m in a family business. I stepped into this business in my mid twenties. My dad and I worked out a multi-year succession plan and the pandemic really accelerated that by a couple of years. This really unique opportunity gave me the chance to really show myself and everybody, ‘Hey, this is what I’m good at.’ So if you are in a family business, it’s okay if the next generation hasn’t really shown you what they’ve got because maybe that scenario hasn’t presented itself yet. So keep trying. Do new things. Put yourself or put your kid in an environment to try something new to just kind of see what they’ve got, because I was afforded that and it was instrumental in me developing confidence and really stepping into this leadership role.”


Jennifer Wilson


Jennifer Wilson is CEO of ARMSRx, a pharmacy benefits consulting company. Jennifer and her team are known for their ability to stay on top of industry changes and for delivering solutions that provide significant cost savings to their clients. Jennifer was recognized in 2019 by The Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP) as a Hall of Fame recipient, and in 2018, Jennifer was named AMCP’s Leading Industry Innovator recipient.

Jennifer Wilson on how her healthcare company pivoted during the pandemic:

“People were looking to us for counsel. What do we do? We had casinos and we had other businesses that were trying to stay open that were not in states where everything was locked down. And so we quickly pivoted because we have access to medical devices, we have access to a network of nurses that will go to these work sites. So we bought all these rapid tests, and we said, ‘We’re going to keep your doors open. We’re going to send nurses in every other day.’ And we just created this new service that we didn’t have before. And our clients really, really appreciated it.”


Erika Royal


Erika Royal is CEO of The Life Coach School, known for setting the standard for the life coaching industry by inspiring people to invest in and care for their mental health. She was accredited as a Master Certified Life Coach then became CEO in 2020 when The Life Coach School was named to the 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies by the Women Presidents’ Organization and American Express. Erika is a graduate of Harvard Law School and worked as an employment lawyer for 22 years, including 12 years as a partner.

Erika Royal on the importance of working with a coach to strengthen your mind: 

“I think that my superpower is that I learned to manage my mind. For a very long time, when I was an associate and then a partner at the law firm, the level of competition caused me a lot of anxiety. Trying to be a mother and a lawyer and all those things. And it wasn’t until I worked with a coach and really learned how to manage my own mind that I was able to take on more opportunities to step into leadership a little bit more. So I think that, in terms of being a leader, the most important thing for me is being able to manage my own mind before I try to manage other people and influence other people.”


About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 53.5% during their time as a client, more than three times the U.S. average, and a revenue CAGR of 26.2%, nearly twice the U.S. average.

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