What Makes Someone "Influential?" A Powerful Literary Agent Weighs In


At the helm of one of the most influential media agencies in the world, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh has learned a thing or two about what keeps people engaged and entertained. She shares her invaluable insights on this week's Girlboss Radio.

“There are two kinds of greatness: Greatness that you go after, and then greatness that’s thrust upon you when you’re in the bathroom,” Jennifer Rudolph Walsh muses in this week’s episode of the podcast. 

And while her long, industry-changing career at William Morris Endeavors—one of the most influential purveyors of entertainment and media in the world—seems like a product of the former, Rudolph Walsh insists it was the latter.

After landing an unpaid internship at a literary agency in college, she negotiated it into a paid internship essentially by calling out her boss—“I was like, ‘OK, so you want me to work for free, but you’re making money? She loved it; she was like, ‘An agent was born.’”

Six years later, she found herself in possession of said literary agency after her boss offered to sell it to her. And after a few more years of trial and error, and wading through what she refers to as “extremely hot water” financially—all the while raising two kids—Rudolph Walsh sold her “little agency that could” to WME.

Now the head of Worldwide Literary, Lectures, and Conference Divisions, Rudolph Walsh steers the ship at an agency representing 66 percent of the New York Times Bestseller’s list. 

She’s also the propelling force behind Oprah’s "The Life You Want" tour, Arianna Huffington’s "Thrive" conference, and the "Together Tour"—a national speaking tour featuring Olympian and soccer superstar Abby Wambach, and New York Times best-selling authors Luvvie Ajayi and Glennon Doyle, with Rudolph Walsh as the emcee.

The three-hour events are aimed at providing inspiration and interactive conversation on a scale that is inclusive and accessible to a wide range of women—a subject about which Rudolph Walsh is especially passionate.

Below, catch some of the standout moments from the latest episode, and listen to it in full below.

On the trait the most influential people she's worked with all have in common:

“The people that are resonating on a cultural, national and international level are people who are really living their purpose. They are who they say they are, and they do what they say they’ll do. It’s powerful, and it’s contagious.”

On participating in the cultural conversation right now:

“We have to just be comfortable living inside the question sometimes, as opposed to having the answers.”

On getting older and enjoying the hell out of it:

“I’m not looking to get to the answers anymore, I’m just reveling in the opportunity to ask new questions, and to connect with people around their experiences.”

On "talent" vs. "purpose":

“Talent you can hide behind, whereas purpose is something you have to seek and find.”

On her personal definition of "success":

“Success is knowing that you’re living your purpose, knowing that you’re making the greatest impact on the most amount of people through your unique reason for being here.”

Girlboss Radio debuts a new episode every Wednesday, at midnight PDT. Tune in!

Words: Deena Drewis
Photo: Courtesy