Lillian Lincoln Lambert

Lillian Lincoln Lambert lives by the aphorism, “Success is a journey, not a destination.”

Born on a farm in the segregated South, Lambert sensed that a better life awaited her. At the age of 18, she journeyed to New York City and Washington, DC, to seek her fortune. After enduring menial jobs as a maid and typist, she came to the realization that education would be her ticket to a new world.

At the age of 22, she enrolled at Howard University. With the help of loans, scholarships, and part-time jobs, she obtained a BA degree. At Howard, a professor who became Lambert’s mentor convinced her that she was Harvard material. In 1969, an era forever linked with the civil rights and burgeoning women’s rights movements, she achieved an historical milestone as the first African-American woman to receive a Harvard MBA.

Lambert continued to blaze her own path to success, founding a building maintenance company in her garage on a few thousand dollars. Through internal growth and acquisitions, the company grew to $20 million in sales with more than 1,200 employees. Reflecting on the irony of a former maid now owning a janitorial business, she said, “Owning the mop is better than pushing the mop.”

For more than 30 years, she has shared her hard-won wisdom on a range of business and inspirational topics with audiences small and large. No longer operating her original business, she now devotes her time to speaking, writing, and coaching. She has traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, to speak to the South African Black Vintners Association on the importance of building alliances to gain competitive advantage. Other clients who have benefited from her expertise include the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Mississippi Bar Association, UBS Financial Services, Freddie Mac, Green Farms Academy, Wayland Academy, Smith College, and other corporate, government, and educational institutions.

Lambert is an avid golfer who also enjoys traveling, reading, listening to jazz, and singing in her church choir. She and her husband, John Lambert, Sr., have a blended family of five adult children.

Honors and Awards

  • Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award
  • TheHistoryMakers inductee – A national organization dedicated to preserving African-American history as the missing link in American history.
  • Library of Virginia, Virginia Women in History recipient
  • Dominion Resources Strong Men Strong Women: Excellence in Leadership Series honoree
  • Enterprising Women Hall of Fame inductee
  • Harvard Business School’s African American Alumni Association’s Bert King Award
  • MBA of the Year, Harvard Business School African American Alumni Association
  • Small Business Person of the Year, State of Maryland
  • Entrepreneur of the Year, Black MBA Association
  • Top 50 Women-Owned Businesses, Washington Business Journal
  • Finalist, Entrepreneur of the Year, Ernst & Young


  • The Road to Someplace Better: From the Segregated South to Harvard Business School and Beyond, ( John Wiley & Sons, 2010)