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Claiming the Courage to Lead

Every morning, I take some quiet time. I spend time in meditation, in prayer, and reading. It is about focusing my mind and centering me to make each day my best. Filling myself so I have something to give. The other morning, I came across this quote:

Freedom and fulfillment come the moment we stop thinking about ourselves and live for something beyond.

I don’t remember who said it. I wish I could. Honestly, I wish it was me. In my opinion, it’s profound truth. It’s at the heart of leadership.

The idea of leadership conjures images of someone loud, often bombastic, and (let’s face it) male. They blow in, take charge, and don’t get asked questions. They’ve risen to the top thanks to some quality they possess that the rest of us do not.

Jim Collins, author of Great By Choice, Good to Great, and other books, tells us that leadership comes down to a key question. “Why are you in it?” We, as the consuming public, look at presumed leaders and can recognize – and reject – a leader who is all about himself. What we want is that person who is fundamentally about accomplishing something much bigger.

In 2011, as the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day was approaching, Forbes.com shared some disappointing statistics about women and leadership. While women had made progress at the middle-management levels, only 2.4% of the U.S. Fortune 500 chief executives were female. Only 2.4%.

As women, we hesitate to embrace our inner leader. We believe the nursery rhyme that taught us we are “sugar and spice and everything nice.” Let’s face it – sugar and spice and everything nice are not what we associate with power and leadership. 

In fact, the lives of women are riddled with strength and power. We have babies. We juggle multiple meals a day for multiple people, kiss their scrapes, carpool, work full time, and lovingly tuck them all in at the end of the day. We create, we build, we achieve. We exert and demonstrate our strength and power with love and gentleness and grace.

Sue Patton Thoele, in The Woman’s Book of Courage, inspires us with courage to “love and accept ourselves – our strengths and weaknesses, our power and vulnerabilities.” Women have a long history of coming to “the moment we stop thinking about ourselves and live for something beyond.” We have a history of fundamentally being about accomplishing something much bigger than ourselves. We are leaders.

 Say it with me now:

 I love being a woman.
I am powerful and strong.
I use my power and authority gently and with love.
I courageously lead.

 Ifeoma Aduba, AWP Director of Public Advocacy

Courage: A Woman’s Place acts bravely and boldly, notwithstanding fear.*

*excerpt from the Values Statement of A Woman’s Place

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