graduate of the Kellogg Part-Time MBA Program, Linda Johnson
Rice has brought her professional insights back to Kellogg
by participating in initiatives like the Black Management
Association Conference. Photo
© Loren Santow
ideas, strong legacy brand, spell success for publisher Linda
Johnson Rice '87
has continued the legacy of her father and is a perfect example
of the success Kellogg graduates can attain.
change is rarely easy, but an effective leader must do it
to deliver results.
has been the goal of Linda Johnson Rice at Johnson
Publishing Company, producer of Ebony, the world's
No. 1 African-American magazine, and Jet, the No. 1
African-American news weekly.
father, John H. Johnson, founded the company in the 1940s
with a dream and $500. While the business grew into a success,
Rice held positions including vice president and special assistant
to the publisher, vice president and fashion coordinator for
Ebony and fashion coordinator for Ebony Fashion Fair.
She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from USC and
became Johnson Publishing's president and COO in 1987, soon
after receiving her Kellogg MBA. In 2002, she became CEO,
a role she considers to be her highest professional accomplishment.
wasn't something that was handed to me on a silver platter,
even though I worked for it throughout my whole adult life."
Rice says her father, who died in 2005, was a man who demanded
dedication, discipline and excellence. When he congratulated
her on becoming CEO, she realized it was a turning point for
her and the company.
roles has challenged Rice '87 to scout new talent for the
company and integrate it with what she calls the "legacy
talent" that was already established at Johnson Publishing.
"It has been important to manage that change, not just
in the business sense, but in the human sense. You have to
take into mind how people feel about their jobs, how they
feel about new people coming in and integrating that together."
has managed these changes well, which in turn has led to new
divisions in the company. This includes a licensing division
that has signed agreements with American Greetings for Ebony
Inspirations cards, and another that works with Dan River
Bedding to produce an Ebony home décor line. In addition,
the company has created a new venture with the Associate Press
to digitize and sell photos from Johnson Publishing's extensive
archives, which date back to the 1940s. "It's a great
growth strategy for the company because we have such iconic
brands in Ebony and Jet, and I don't think we
had capitalized on how strong those two brands are outside
of the publishing field."
says her management style, which emphasizes the strength of
teams, received its foundation at the Kellogg School, where
she was enrolled in the Part-Time
MBA Program. She says the team-based approach has made
employees feel more energized and a part of the company and
its decision-making process.
in new people and having them help me create a vision and
strategy for the company — and then allowing them to
execute that — that's a tremendous value that you need
to have in leadership," Rice says. "What I learned
from my MBA is to think through strategies very clearly: What
are your barriers, your competitors, what sets you apart and
how to reach your goals."
any good leader, Rice's values are evident in the product.
With the addition of new editorial and creative directors,
she says, their energy and ideas "have excited the team
... and brought about sharper covers and stories that are
ideas at Johnson Publishing are also a benefit of the relationship
that the company has with Northwestern's Medill School of
Journalism and with Kellogg. Rice has remained connected with
the Kellogg community in many ways, including as a speaker
at the Black Management Association Conference in 2005. "We
look to Northwestern for intern candidates whether in journalism,
or in business and administration," she says.
Rice believes in refining ideas to deliver results, something
she learned from her father. "If you have a vision, you
have to make sure that you have thought it through, that you
have used all the knowledge and resources of those you respect
... so you can hone that vision. Then be passionate, disciplined
and willing to make changes as you go."