Ginny Wilson-Peters' Blog
“A ship in the harbor is safe…but that’s not what ships are for.“ William Shedd
The above quote has been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. And this quote came back to me over and over as I wrote the following essay for the Athena Awards about empowering women.
Nurturing and inspiring a woman leader is about helping her find her own language, and gaining the courage to express her unique voice. A woman leads best when she truly knows who she is and understands how she operates in this world. While the languages and lessons are different for each woman, four common experiences emerge when it comes to empowering leadership.
The first is a woman discovering her purpose and leadership vision.
Teri, a recent student in an MBA class I teach, wrote about the challenges of reflection in her first paper. “I am becoming concerned that I may not be in the right position for my long-term happiness. I need to get a grip on who I am, where I want to go, and what I want to do/be when I get there.” One week later, she wrote about the power of gaining clarity on her purpose and vision. “My husband has known about my desire to own and run my own horse barn since the day we met. We are constantly looking for the right piece of land on which to build my stables. We have not found it yet, but at least now we finally are on the hunt. Even though I know I will be with Company X for the next three years, I am already planning my next steps.”
The next weekend of class Teri came and told me that they had just found 50 acres perfect for her horse business — and it was just two miles away from where they live. After discovering her purpose and allowing herself to dream, Teri is now on her way to making her personal vision a reality. I just received an email today saying “we didn’t end up buying the 50 acres we checked out. We ended up buying a 40 about 8 miles away, but it’s just gorgeous and is the spitting image of my dream place. It’s truly amazing. “
The second experience is a woman learning and embracing the differences in masculine and feminine styles of leadership. Each person has a unique blend. Finding the authentic style that works, while honoring her true feminine spirit, can be challenging for a woman. In the opening chapter of one of my favorite leadership books for women, Dancing on the Glass Ceiling, the authors share the story of a round peg trying to force her way through to the “other” side of leadership in her company — through a square hole. The round peg suffered because of it. The story goes on to say that only when the round peg is on the “other” side does she truly realize what was lost during her journey.
“Instead of recognizing our strengths, we have obsessed over our weaknesses. Instead of daring to stand out, we have ‘shaved off’ little pieces of ourselves so we could fit into the square hole — the accepted, masculine-driven pattern of business,” authors Nancy Fredericks and Candy Deemer write.
The third experience is a woman articulating her personal brand. This involves understanding her personality type and embracing her strengths, independent of her job, her company or any other life status. Two weeks ago, I sat with a woman and watched the “branding” light bulb turn on. “So, it isn’t about changing my style to become the person they (her male colleagues) want?” she said. “It is about me understanding my brand and how I add value to the business.”
The fourth experience is a woman connecting with other women leaders. For example, my own story of leaving my job as president of Midland Press to launch Integrity Integrated often serves as a motivation for others. A woman who comes to understand herself is prepared to become a great leader, and many times encourages other women to do the same. Sharing our stories is vitally important.
I identified my life’s purpose fifteen years ago. When clarity arrived, it resonated to the depths of my soul. My purpose is to nurture and inspire others to reach for the stars. Learning from my own experiences along the way I gathered insight into my own personal power. I also determined my leadership vision: To be an internationally respected teacher and coach whose work inspires others to discover new possibilities in their lives.
To develop more women leaders, we must encourage all women on this path of discovering their authentic leader within. I consider it an honor to help guide women on the journey.