Contest–Describe Your Female Model of Leadership

First, if you buy a copy of Wander Woman on June 15th and forward the receipt to, you’ll receive a free workbook and half of the proceeds will go to the Phoenix Crisis Nursery. If we make #1 on any bestseller list, I will donate all my proceeds for the week.

Now, for the contest (scroll down if you’ve read this already)…

I was describing what I view as the emerging identity of strong, smart high-achieving women when a woman said, “It sounds like you advocate that women should be more like men. I would rather see men honor feminine power.”

I explained to her that I don’t think these women have lost their femininity. As women gain more freedom, education and economic power, they are becoming more confident and assertive. Being self-assured and outspoken does not mean a woman is not feminine. She is just a stronger woman.

Girls now are being brought up to be compassionate and assertive, sociable and analytical, collaborative and self-reliant, and empathetic and directive. Unfortunately, some people see powerful women as acting more like men. This is a short-sighted, unfair and damaging assessment.

That being said, I think the model of leadership for women needs to be redefined. The model must also allow women to be human, to be both aggressive in their pursuit of goals and to show vulnerability when they feel fear or disappointment, like any human would do.

Whether or not all people will accept these women as leaders, if we align around what we believe to be a feminine model of leadership, we can make an impact in the world. When all strong, smart women make their voices heard, we can tip the scales of power forever.

How then will we define our model of female leadership?

I am drawn to women who demonstrate strength and grace instead of trying to bully their way to the top by ridiculing others. Although the “pit bull” approach may get you noticed and you may be able to right some wrongs, “women of strength and grace” accomplish their goals differently. Showing confidence doesn’t have to include displaying your muscle.

Women of strength and grace admit when they are wrong, can change their mind as they learn and share a vision of the future that is so clear and inviting that others are eager to follow. This is a part of the model I’m building. What would you add or change?

Who are your role models of strength and grace? What woman do you know alive today who demonstrates intelligence, courage, compassion, decisiveness, assertiveness and passion? It could be your grandmother, Sandra Bullock, your former boss or even your daughter.

Share your model of strength and grace as a comment on this post. Include the person, if she exists, as well as the qualities.

I will work with a team of colleagues to pick the top three submissions from this blog, from the Burden of Greatness blog, and from Facebook to win a copy of Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction. I will then feature the winning submissions in an upcoming Huffington Post Blog. So even if you have bought the book, I’ll give you the gift of visibility.

If we can get clear on what we call a model of female leadership, we can begin to allow for, even honor, this behavior at work. We can quit defining women as too strong or too weak and never let them be who they are as the strong, smart, and wonderfully imperfect humans that know how to help their children, their companies or their countries succeed.

Contest ends midnight June 18th, pacific daylight time.

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  1. says

    Carol Tomei of Home Depot fits the bill in my opinion. She is a role model as she is a Senior Officer (CFO) of a Fortune 500 firm, and also sits on the Board of Directors for UPS, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Georgia. I heard her speak at the Board of Directors org. awards gala this past fall as she received a role model award. She was passionate,charming and inspired the room to achieve by telling her own story which was rooted in authentic core values. She walks the talk as well, as 50% of her direct reports at Home Depot at the time were female.

  2. says

    My model of strength and grace is my sister, Linda. She is 13 months younger than I. I cannot remember a time she was not a leader. She was no more than 7 or 8 when our mother used to ask her, “Linda, who the mother in this family?” Linda modeled a mother even then.

    Mom worked as a waitress in the evening, Dad had two jobs. Linda’s heart and soul were fine tuned to a younger sister and brother and their daily needs and nurturing. She barked orders at me. On good days I listened . She always got the job done. Cooking, cleaning, laundry … she led, I followed (usually).

    Linda Licata is Director of Nursing and Advanced Practice Parkland Health and Hospital Systems in Dallas, TX. She is responsible for Women’s ER, an inpatient gynecology oncology unit, two large clinics, OB Complications, and Gynecology Clinic.

    Intelligence. Linda was always at the top of her class in elementary and high school. She was the first woman accepted at Lehigh University when that all-male institution went coed in 1971. She started in a chemical engineering program and switched to nursing, graduating college with a BSN. She moved to Kentucky and became the first Certified Nurse Practitioner in that state, working with women, teaching children, and managing several rural health clinics. She got her Masters’ Degree in Women’s Health years later in Texas.

    Courage. I don’t think Linda issues courage because I do not think courage is ever an issue. Courage assumes there are safer solutions to problems. Linda does not need courage because she sees no alternative to the best solution in patient care and honesty and fidelity to her service.

    Compassion. On a scale of 1 – 10, Linda’s genuine caring and support and kindness scores a solid 10 on all counts, on all days, in all aspects of her life. When Dad was in a nursing home in New Jersey, Linda visited quarterly, sometimes more often. When her sisters and her brother find themselves locked in a dark hour, Linda has the key that lets in the light. And then there is laughter … shared memories … solutions … and tea. Linda (and her amazing husband) shares without condition, without reproach.

    Decisiveness. Linda has a logical mind that measures the pros and cons of any situation. She is open to input and stands firm when a decision is made. She has good chops for personnel management. I’ve seen her take pages around the clock, in the middle of the night. She is always sure footed in thought, courteous and kind, and she is quick to applaud and encourage her staff for good choices and superior service.

    Assertiveness. My sister stands on equal footing with the best of the best in health care. She drives thought design and innovation in computer programming, logistics, and scheduling, in addition to clinical areas of expertise.

    Passion. Linda’s professional passion is evident in her brand of servant leadership. On a personal level, her passion for family, a lifetime of smart choices and successful parenting sees her proud mother of a math professor at Stanford, a physicist at Max Planck, and a young maverick finishing law school.

  3. Joyce Lansky says

    I am fortunate to have a sister-in-law named Janet Lansky Shipman who is the perfect role model for strength and grace. Janet has demonstrated her high intelligence by achieving a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the University of Memphis. She is currently running for division 7, general sessions court judge in Memphis, TN. She has been an attorney for twenty-nine years and has always shown keen intelligence whether in professional situations or personally.

    Just this past year, Janet demonstrated her courage when she battled breast cancer. She never gave up hope, showed weakness, or brought her friends and family down with her. At a family get together, a four-year-old girl laughed at her baldhead. While many would get upset, Janet joked along with the child, and said, “I do look funny, don’t I?”

    Not only was Janet compassionate when dealing with a young child, but she also participates in multiple service organizations. She serves on the boards for The Life Blood Regional Center and Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis. Janet also commits her time to Volunteer Memphis and Hadassah.

    Another reason why Janet demonstrates the ideal female role model is her ability to make quick and sound decisions and her assertiveness. There’s no wishy-washy-waffling when it comes to Janet. She has positively influenced many organizations through her leadership. Janet was a member of the Leadership Memphis class of 2008. She also served as president of the Exchange Club Family Center and The National Council of Jewish Women.

    Janet consistently shows her passion by serving the city of Memphis. I am constantly in awe of this wonder woman who has also been a great role model for her two daughters who are now well adjusted adults.

  4. says

    Actually, I love your thoughts of Sandra Bullock. What a shining example of someone who has handled an uncomfortable situation with humor and grace that is such a personal and public affront.

    I would like to share that my Mother has played a major leading role in my life that has shaped my values and aspirations as a Leadership Coach.

    My Mom gracefully accepted many challenges in her marriage while raising 7 children solely on her own. She never complained and no matter what challenges unfolded each day while raising 7 kids, she always handled each “incident” with love and care without making a big deal out of things. My Dad contributed in terms of financial support but was very absent and rarely addressed any children issues.

    On my parent’s 36th wedding anniversary, my Dad announced that he wanted a divorce. This shocking news no doubt devastated my mother, for she was thinking that the last child (me) would soon be out of the house and the two of them could slow down and retire. At the age of 65, retirement was no longer an option for my Mother. She continued to work to support us both – until I was finally old enough to move out on my own. Although she was completely shaken with this major life upset, my mother continued to emanate a most authentic model of grace and respect.

    I am so blessed to have inherited a part of my Mother’s innate sense of optimism, sensibility and courage. It is clear to me that I am the successful business woman that I am today, most in part because of the positive beliefs that were instilled upon me as a young child. Words of wisdom from my Mother that I always carry with me are: “This too shall pass”. As leaders, my Mother’s advice implies that we must learn how to “let go” and trust more. This means we can’t control everything around us. It means asking others for help. From this place of trust and humility, we can honestly discover how to serve each other.

    I am boarding a plane later this week to be with my Mom…a cherished moment, indeed.

  5. Caroline Ryan says

    It is time, we as a race, showed that we live on equal terms with all species and respect each and everyone of their right to life. We no longer exploit and plunder sentient beings for our own benefit, but recognise we each have equal right to live side by side on this planet.

  6. says

    One morning I discovered I had a new neighbour whose name was Leonie. I didn’t realise at the time what an impact she would have on my life and what powerful influences she would leave in my heart and values; influences that she’s unaware of yet for me have lasted for the past 18 years.
    Leonie was remarkable for her inner calmness and the strength that emanated from the core of her being. The storms she weathered in her personal life encompassed crippling bad health of more than one kind; a family that relied on her emotionally and often financially, as well as experiencing bitter disappointment from a cruelly failed marriage. Also despite being highly intelligent and capable, her lack of work experience relegated her to less visible and influential work roles.
    Why is Leonie remarkable as a role model, embodying strength and grace?
    Because everything she did came from her heart, her authenticity was unquestionable and her consideration for others’ needs exemplary. When things didn’t go the way she’d planned, of course she retreated, then reflected, took stock, gathered anew her resources and re-launched herself again and again at her objectives, to achieve results that were congruent for her, but always in alignment with the needs of others.
    She exuded the kind of energy that drew people to her, albeit often, for someone so apparently unassuming, people couldn’t really articulate why. The result was, even before her professional life took off (apparently miraculously to those who didn’t know her inner strength and capabilities) she naturally took all her friends and co-workers ‘with her’ on her journey. Her natural resilience, vision, warmth and, unfailing optimism never failed to inspire all those around her. Obstacles dissolved in front of her, either through her own direct intervention or through the willingness of others to work with her to resolve outstanding challenges.
    Leonie has now been recognised for her outstanding personal and professional qualities & abilities and now has a role where she is an active influencer of behavioural training and policies in a correctional institution. Not somewhere she would ever have imagined working through choice, but with her ability to influence so successfully and bring herself so fully to her commitments, her presence has transformed the lives of many, whilst educating those of us who stand by and observe.
    What a role model she has been for natural and authentic leadership in my life and given my work is now focused on leadership development from the perspective of what constitutes, good leadership ‘behaviours’, she has given me enormous inspiration and hope that women can lead through honouring not only themselves through their own authenticity, but also by bringing their feminine energy to bear in their personal and working environments. The ability to honour the needs of everyone, thereby moderating the masculine energetic dominance in our western cultural, is essential, so we may finally recognise and adopt a more harmonious balance of beneficial energies for the good of all.

  7. says

    What an amazing tribute you have created. THANK YOU.

    I am blessed to work with women, and therefore I see grace and strength in all shapes, sizes, economic and education levels. I have been inspired by the single mom who had the courage to leave an abusive relationship and now provides a safe place for other abused women. Then there is my business partner and best friend, Molly Davis…who was told years ago by her father, not to be too smart for fear of scaring off the boys. She is now a magnificent corporate trainer who teaches men how to be more authentic and compassionate in the work place. How about Amy Ferris, author of Marrying George Clooney, who courageously exposes all aspects of herself as she navigates menopause, a retired husband and the death of her complicated mother. She shines a light on such a difficult chapter in women’s lives. I have recently been introduced to the most extraordinary group of women, Common Threads:the artists. Peggy Tyson, knew a group of women who didn’t know one another. She believed in the power of greatness in each one of us. Though she was battling a serious health condition, she worked diligently to get us all together. We have met, fallen head over heels in love and trust and creativity and are now collaborating on a piece that we all believe will change the lives and hearts of the middle aged woman.

    I see grace and beauty in women every day…every day ordinary women who are finding their voices, some for the first time, and choosing to make a difference. Women supporting women feels like the new revolution and I am thrilled to be a small part of it.

  8. says

    At our candy-land bachelor pad in Miami Beach we have TV. I did not have TV for years. So I wanna know; WTF is up with all those shows that pitch women against each other, like portray us all as super bitches, dumb and out to get each other? Like we’re always, always ready for the kill…

    I have been shaped by women. My womentors. First my mother. I am who I am because of my mother. And then several of her coolest friends. I always have women crushes on women who inspire me, women who are so cool that their influence somehow changes me, makes me bigger and better and more fearless…

    I don’t see women as my competition and I’m always taken aback when I’m seen as a nemesis. In the past nine months I’ve made great new women friends. All awesome in their own way, like Esther, Jody, Francesca, Sheila, Ineke, Iran, Sam, Suzy, Zaha, Petra, Lily, Victoria, Nancy, Astrid, Heather – all fabulous women.

    My editor friend (and #1 writing mentor) Amy Ferris recently asked me to write a piece about an important woman-mentor in my life. The first person who came to mind was, of course, my mother. Gail came into my mind next. Gail Bruce is my NYC mentor. So this is what I wrote:

  9. Matt says

    I am building a business targeted at women and I need to know what women look for in other women when it comes to role models >>> that is why I am reading your thoughts. My question is…”Are there any celebs or celeb ‘types’ that fit that description of a role model to you?”

  10. marcia says

    Interesting question. I like women like Sandra Bullock you handle difficulties with grace. I like that Oprah is reinventing herself so she stays passionate about her work (plus she models leadership in many other ways as well). I like the women who stay true to their values and don’t give in to media hype. Do you have someone in mind?