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BossWoman ENews
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
March 2006

My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.

In this issue, you'll find:

  1. Leadership Lessons from the Greats
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops

1. Leadership Lessons from the Greats

In this month when we celebrate women’s history month, this eNews will remind ourselves of the leadership lessons of three of the greatest women leaders of the 20th century: Betty Friedan, Coretta Scott King, and Rosa Parks.

Each of these women modeled four important lessons of leadership.

  1. Preparation establishes readiness.

    When Betty Friedan’s book, “The Feminine Mystique,” was published in 1963 interviewers often described her as though she was a housewife who wrote an interesting book. In fact, the author of the book that launched the 20th century version of the women’s movement was a veteran writer and journalist with an academic background (she gave up the last phase of her Ph.D. degree to concentrate on a romantic relationship.)

    Coretta Scott King is often described as the helpmate of Martin Luther King, Jr. in his work on civil rights, the woman behind the man, the one who kept the home fires burning. While that was true, she had already done civil rights work during her undergraduate student days at Antioch College being a member of NAACP. Deciding on a career as a professional singer, King was accepted into the New England Conservatory in Boston. While studying she met her husband, a student at the time, and together they developed a shared vision uniting their separate social activism toward a common cause.

    Rosa Parks is often described as though she was a little old lady too tired to move to the back of the bus who innocently and naively set off the 38 day long bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. She was not even old when she refused to relinquish her seat to a white man unless you consider 42 to be old. In addition, she, too, had a long history of social activism in racial equality including serving as the secretary of the local NAACP.

  2. Opportunities favor preparation.

    Each woman was in a right place at the right time and took advantage of it. But it was not an accident to be in that right place: their preparation led them there.

    While two other African-American women had staged acts of civil disobedience by refusing to sit in the backs of buses, it was Park’s background that led the NAACP to support her case because it was a better test of anti-discrimination laws. Park’s bus protest was not her first public act; earlier she had tried to vote when voting rights were still not granted to African-Americans. As a result of Park’s courageous bus protest, the Supreme Court ruled in November 1956 that segregation on public transportation was illegal. Parks was the right woman at the right time because of her own readiness.

    While readers of women’s magazines may have noticed the change in tone of post-war magazines from the “you can do it” attitude of the Rosie Riveter war effort to the message of “stay home and prevent yellow waxy build up on your linoleum floors,” it took journalist Friedan to catalogue the themes and describe the “the problem with no name.” Her involvement in radical activities for social change in her undergrad years prepared her as much as her journalist background to be one of the “mothers” of the modern women’s movement. In spite of her radical leanings, she insisted that the issue of women’s rights was not a radical movement but a mainstream social development growing out of the human rights awareness starting in the mid 1800’s with the abolitionist period.

    Coretta King and her husband put their energies into the civil rights movement because it was their passion but also times were right for America to look at racial inequality. While the Kings started their post-school life together at a church in Montgomery, Alabama, their pastoral activities grew beyond those of the traditional minister with a wife leading the women’s bible study and organizing the annual bake sale. Their message was one of nonviolent social change, the world their congregation. While Mrs. King often traveled with her husband she also traveled independently promulgating their message through the use of her speaking and professional singing skills.

  3. It is not what you know but who you know.

    Each of these women was a master networker. Park’s leadership in the NACCP led to connections that supported her private protest as a public event.

    Friedan’s connections in the publishing world made publication of her book happen in a timely fashion and it instantly became the book club topic of the decade. My male psychology professor predicted that the book would be the most influential book on the psychology front for the second half of the 20th century. The men in my mostly male psychology class laughed but the women rushed to buy the book and talked about it for weeks afterwards. The insights formed in those discussions influenced me to write my doctoral dissertation on gender differences in cognitive strategies. I found very few studies examining at the psychology of women. As a young assistant professor, I designed and taught what I believe to be the first women’s studies class in psychology in this country. With no text books available on the psychology of women, we used materials from women’s studies in English and history and from the popular press. These days Psychology of Gender courses are standard offerings in most four year psychology programs.

    Mrs. King’s to connect with other leaders to get a job done are legendary. Although press at the time of her husband’s work pictured her as the “power behind the throne,” her warmth and charisma helped foster Dr. King’s work and furthered her own agenda after his death. She established the Center for Non-Violent Social Change in Atlanta and worked to get her husband’s birthday to be a federal holiday. Martin Luther King Day does not just honor his memory but every year raises and keeps awareness of social justice issues before the public. Workplaces that do not take the day off have special presentations and celebrations honoring the work of the Kings and their contemporaries and reminding all of us that we have much work left to do to achieve equality among the races.

    The three women also had connections with each other. Mrs. King’s husband organized the bus boycott after Rosa Parks’ action. Coretta King served on the Board of the National Organization of Women, an organization co-founded by Betty Friedan. All three of these great women found themselves as speakers on human rights.

  4. Accomplishments lead to other opportunities.

    The lives of these women were not one act plays. They all continued the work of their initial contributions. Mrs. King’s accomplishments continued after her husband’s death. In addition to the accomplishments described above she continued a very public life as a speaker and advisor to groups working for human rights such as the National Organization of Women and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

    Friedan continued to be an influential leader in the women’s movement, taking the position as first president of the National Organization of Women and continuing to produce books on the theme of human rights. Her book, “The Second Stage,” emphasized the work that remained on women’s issues. Her book, “The Fountain of Age,” written over a period of 10 years described how the rights of aging people are ignored.

    Parks used the celebrity established by her very public act of civil disobedience to keep issues of racial equality before the public eye by doing interviews, giving keynotes, and permitting a movie to be made about on her life. She later become an advisor to NAACP and in 1987 established the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development and latter, a youth education program called Pathways to Freedom which supported youth traveling across the country tracing the path of the underground railroad and learning about the African-American quest for freedom.

    How can you apply these four lesson to your own life and work?

Apply the lessons of these leaders

  1. Prepare yourself so that you are ready.

    • What has your background prepared you to do? Can you write, speak, or organize events? Research by the Gallup Institute on human strengths finds that we all tend to discount our special skills and gifts. Because using our strengths comes so easily we presume that everyone has those skills. That is why working with a coach or a coaching group is such a valuable experience. It takes an outsider to point out the obvious. Identifying your unique skill package allows you to find ways to develop those skills and brings you closer to using the skills to make a living and/or to make the world a better place.

    • How do your jobs prepare you for other aspects of your life? For example, what communication skills do you use easily at work that you can use to prevent misunderstandings with your relationship partner?

    • How do the skills you use in your personal and volunteer work prepare you for interesting work? For example, skills of patience and motivation learned as a mom can be translated into many other roles including those in paid employment.

  2. Observe, looking for opportunities.

    • What opportunities have you noticed lately? While you might never make such a startling contribution as the women we are honoring in this eNews, you have opportunities calling to you all the time. Which ones seem to best fit your sense of purpose as you know it to be?

    • Is it possible that your sense of purpose is evolving? Perhaps you are a very public person, owning your own company or working in the limelight, who now is being called into a supportive role for someone else. Or perhaps have you lived a quiet life and find yourself being called on to offer your wisdom in a wider circle?

    • Do you need more preparation, either formally or informally, to equip you to where you are headed?

  3. Connect with others.

    • Appreciate the value of social capital. Who do you know who can help you reach some of your dreams? Who do they know?

    • Appreciate the value of the strength of loose connections. Who is a friend of a friend of a friend who can teach you, help you, fund you, or introduce you? The more people you know and the more they know, the better chances you have of expanding your social connections.

    • Do you have a way to keep in touch with your network even when you don’t need them? Do you offer to help before you need help so that you deepen the connection of community before you need to tap into that community?

  4. Extend your accomplishments to other opportunities.

    • What achievements have you made that can be extended to another area? What is the very next little step that might take you to the next level?

    • How can you deepen and broaden your experiences to enlarge your influence? What solutions do you have that someone is dying to find out about? How can you reach them?

Conclusion
Prepare, observe, connect, and offer.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, do something special to honor yourself and other women.

Susan Robison


2. BossWoman coaching

About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:
  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.

If you are feeling stuck on the way to your ideal life, give Susan a call for a complementary half-hour coaching session.

She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:

  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.

She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching session because she knows that workshops don’t work.

Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at 410-465-5892.


3. Up and coming workshops

I have booked a number of work/life balance workshops for the winter that are not open to the public.
Contact me if your group needs a speaker on any of the topics listed above.

Title: “Staying Sane in Insane Places: Managing Diverse Faculty Responsibilities with Clarity, Balance and Ease.”
Date: May 31, 2006
Place: Faculty College, University of Wisconsin



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© Copyright 2006 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without the publisher’s permission.

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