Personal History by Katherine Graham

Summary
  1. Katherine Graham, long time CEO of The Washington Post, recounts her story, her struggles and her rise to running this acclaimed newspaper
Key Takeaways
  1. Never forget or underestimate the role of chance in your life
  2. Parents had impossibly high standards but she receives good emotional support from parents where siblings didn’t
  3. Father bought the Washington Post in an auction
  4. Single most strengthening thing in her life was her fathers unconditional love and belief
  5. It is much more fun to fight to get to the top to fight to keep at the top
  6. Married Phil Graham in 1940 and he was adamant that if they married he wouldn’t accept any of her family’s money. He was able to cut through formality and connect with anyone, regardless of age, race, career, etc. Phil would soon join the Post anyway as Graham’s fathers deputy and soon take over the business. He worked so hard and put so much pressure on himself that he soon had a nervous breakdown. He worked closely with LBJ to pass the Civil Rights Act
  7. Relationships work best when there is most equality
  8. Katherine soon found out that Phil was having an affair
  9. Phil committed suicide after a bout of depression in the family’s home. Katherine found him and that was one of the most traumatic experiences of her life. Sometimes you don’t decide, you simply move forward
  10. Her friend gave her the confidence to believe that she could truly run the company after her husband died
  11. She knew a lot about publishing but began learning the rest by nibbling at the edges, making many mistakes and learning from them. She had to overcome her insecurities and many ingrained assumptions about women which were prevalent at the time
  12. The Post decided to go public in the early 1970s and Buffett bought about 10% of the company shortly after
  13. The Pentagon Papers scandal quickly brought the post attention and credibility as it refused to stop publishing papers which were damaging to the government
  14. The Post’s Woodward and Bernstein soon staged one of the most impressive investigative journalist efforts of all time in unlocking the Watergate Scandal. Graham’s courage and confidence during these times again propelled the Post to great national fanfare. A union strike soon destroyed some of the presses but Graham was able to quickly start printing again using other non union facilities. This was some of the most stressful times of her life and Buffett offered camaraderie at this time. He said he was looking for the tipping point of when she would lose the company for being down for too long
  15. Katherine turned over the role of Publisher to her son Don so she could focus on CEO duties. She stepped down as CEO in 1991 and was considered one of the best CEOs in the country and the Post one of the most respected companies
What I got out of it
  1. Amazing how Katherine was able to rise above her doubts, insecurities, stigmas around women, etc. in order to become one of the best CEOs in recent history!