BossWoman ENews |
Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.
In this issue, you'll find:
- Leadership Lessons from the Greats
- BossWoman coaching
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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
Apply the lessons of these leaders
- 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
- 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.
- 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?
- 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
- 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
- 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
Prepare, observe, connect, and offer.
In recognition of Women’s History Month, do
something special to honor yourself and other women.
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
- 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,
- work-life balance,
She offers her audiences a follow-up coaching
session because she knows that workshops don’t
Contact Susan for your coaching, speaking, or
seminar needs at Susan@BossWoman.org or at
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.
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