Women in Leadership

For me, what has become ringingly clear is that a strong spiritual practice and a faith not easily shaken by fortune or misfortune, or the shortcomings of others and society, is fundamental to empowered, effective leadership. Coupled with that is the firm necessity of a working definition of ambition, which for me is “To be of maximum service to those around me, and to walk humbly under the grace of God.”

Now, all this quick talk about God, faith, and grace may already have folks wondering if I mis read the topic on which I was asked to write. Indeed, I did not. For me the points are made not pertaining to one particular conception of God or religion, but rather broadly and inclusively refer to a loving Higher Power which each person can….and must….define for her/himself. The means of conscious contact with a loving higherpower must also be explored and established by each of us in our own way. Over time the morning devotional practice I have committed to has enhanced and expanded both my interest in and ability to lead. It has given me more clarity about the nature and scope of the problems with which we live, and insight into and a clear conscience about what I deeply believe the solutions are. Importantly, without this daily connection into a transcendent source of values, ideals, and principles, it is far to easy to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the suffering, the urgency of the need, the scale of the solution that needs to be implemented to truly remedy inequality, injustice, and suffering.

Throughout the day, I make a keen effort to pause when agitated or doubtful, touching base with that intuitive place inside of me where I can find serenity again, the serenity I tasted in my morning devotional. From there, my thinking usually swiftly improves. The quality of my intellect is always better when I have the spiritual discipline to practice simple techniques like this, which also include a Mantram, or holy word, that I can repeat to calm and refocus my mind when it invariably becomes frantic, defensive, or feels inadequate. I have come to rely on this as so many times I have seen that used to be the gradual hunch or inspiration, has truly become a working part of my mind.

So, those are some of the private, interior things I believe are essential to good leadership. Additionally, community is key, and the way I am with others is as important as with whom I choose to be. Being “right sized” is important: Neither greater than, nor lesser than. Andrew Carnegie (for all his robber baron faults) is a good teacher of this art so often lost on us when we gain power, property, and prestige. The weaver’s son from Dunfermline, Scotland regularly hosted “the good and the great” at his Highland home, unabashedly seating paupers whose minds and labor he admired alongside heads of state. For me, this type of confidence can come only from a secure spiritual identity that we are all equal, intrinsically valuable and worthy. This allows me to give voice to power with authority and confidence (such as when I addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations), to neither fear the fancy, brilliant, wealthy people who are in power, nor to be above the disempowered, the disenfranchised, the voiceless, the lowly and despised.

Consensus building is said to be native to the way women’s brains are wired, and I do believe it is crucial for effective leadership. “Participation is key to harmony” is a slogan in which I firmly believe, and reflects back to equality: If all are confident they are valued and that their voice counts, that they will be honored and heard, they are more likely to participate in the process, and thus results (policies, laws, systems) are going to be a more accurate reflection of the people they serve. The more and better the people are served, the greater the balance and peace.

Of course, there is much, much more, and this is just a brief musing from me. To summarize, I will say this: Effective leadership and worthwhile living must put principles before personalities. Naturally, I cannot do this without knowing what my principles are. For me, they derive from unchanging spiritual values. The goal, once I know what these principles are, is to practice these principles in all my affairs. The result can only be a dignified and helpful leadership that has the highest good as its core agenda and motivation.