Deborrah Himsel, Palgrave Macmillan, 228 pages, $26
Most books about business leadership presume that readers want to know how GE's Jack Welch or Apple's Steve Jobs achieved what they did and to appropriate some of the magic for themselves. "Beauty Queen" has the arc of tragedy. Andrea Jung is a smart, glamorous woman who became chief executive of Avon, the door-to-door cosmetics company, in 1999, led a renaissance and then presided over a series of missteps that ended with her resignation in 2012.
This could have been a gripping story. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Jung brought charisma and flair to a century-old company that had become a bit of a joke. For young American women, the appeal of buying lipstick in their kitchens had waned.
Luckily for Avon, women in Brazil, Russia and other emerging markets did not feel that way. Avon started moving out of America and by the time Jung took over, foreign markets accounted for 40 percent of its sales. But the sprawl created cultural and organizational strains. Jung struggled to balance the needs of a global corporation with the independence of regional chieftains. She tried to modernize Avon by shifting some sales to shops, a move that angered executives who saw the "Avon ladies" as the heart of the business. A series of mishaps, including corruption scandals in emerging markets, eventually toppled Jung.
Unfortunately, "Beauty Queen" is more a wordy PowerPoint presentation than a proper book. It is clogged with corporate clichés ("360-degree feedback") and psychobabble ("Her pleaser derailer got in the way of walking the talk"). Himsel presents her lessons in lists that conclude each chapter. Many are sensible, even valuable: For example, when companies choose bosses they should pair them with deputies who have complementary skills. But this is a fable that is all moral and no story.