Women Leaders Sizzle This Summer

Summer hasn't officially hit the mid-way mark, yet the thermometer has exceeded expectations with heat waves all over the U.S. In concert with these extremely high temperatures, women leaders have been sizzling -- their actions and voices are heating up media everywhere. Here are a few of the women leaders whose leadership qualities have caught fire recently.

Marissa Mayer. After her appointment as CEO for Yahoo, the new mom banned telecommuting for Yahoo employees while she set up a nursery in her office, and was highly criticized for that move. Three months after the ban, she spoke out and defended her decision by acknowledging that "people are more productive when they're alone," and then stressed "but they're more collaborative and innovative when they're together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together." Mayer had a job to do and that was to save Yahoo from a downward spiral. She made a hard decision, one that was unpopular, bold and courageous -- a quality the best leaders have.

In the year since her appointment, Mayer is being congratulated. The increased collaboration and innovation at Yahoo has paid off. She has revitalized the corporate culture, rehired former Yahoos, relaunched Yahoo mobile apps, totally redesigned the Flickr photo service and released a cleaner search results page. She purchased 16 startups and as reported in CNN Money, "[Mayer] is pulling in people who are excited about mobile, people who want to build a winning culture." According to JMP Securities analyst Ron Josey, "Yahoo needs that badly. That cannot be understated, given that [Mayer's] main strategy is to make Yahoo a company that builds products people are excited to use every day."

Deborah Hersman. After the terrible crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 213 as it landed in San Francisco, there was one person who consistently presented updates and took questions from the press in a calm, concerned and direct manner -- Deborah Hersman, the National Transportation Safety Board Chairman. Hersman, a welcome change from the usual white, middle-aged men who usually oversee such tragic events, showed the aplomb and intelligence of the best of the best. Her direct communication and astute listening addressed questions and inspired confidence and trust. The public appears to have confidence in Hersman and the investigation she is leading. Leaders inspire trust and Hersman built trust through her actions. NTSB Chairman since 2009, Deborah Hersman, the mother of three boys, is recognized as one of the nation's most visionary and passionate safety leaders who advocates for safety across all modes of transportation. Among her many initiatives, Chairman Hersman has focused attention and actions on distracted driving, child passenger safety and helping accident victims and their families. She emphasizes the NTSB's role as "the conscience and the compass of the transportation industry."

Malala Yousafzi. Malala became a symbol of education reform in Pakistan in 2009 when she started speaking out for education rights for girls and was even featured in a New York Times documentary. Then, in October of 2012, she was shot by Taliban gunmen while returning from school in a van. It is believed that the extremists wanted to kill her for promoting education for girls. Now, it is nothing short of a miracle that the teen advocate is still alive and even more astounding that she suffered no major brain or nerve damage. There was a global outpouring of sympathy for Malala, as she fought for her life. In hardly more than four weeks, she went from an intensive care unit in Pakistan, showing no signs of consciousness, to walking, writing, reading -- and smiling -- again in a hospital in the United Kingdom.

Since then, the United Nations launched a campaign for girls' education named "I am Malala." Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack and praised Malala's cause. Honored this month and invited to speak at UN headquarters in New York on her 16th birthday, Malala courageously said efforts to silence her had failed. She is tenacious and passionate as voice for education for girls worldwide. The BBC described the atmosphere at the UN on the day Malala was honored:

There is a buzz of excitement at the UN. Corridors and chambers normally filled with sharp-suited diplomats have, for one day at least, been taken over by teenagers. It's Malala's story and incredible recovery from her attack that have brought the issue of universal education to greater global attention. The challenge is to keep up the momentum to make a real change. A quarter of young women around the world have not completed primary school.

Courage, collaboration, innovation, direct communication, listening, confidence, trust, visionary, passion, tenaciousness -- all are words that describe our greatest leaders, be they in business, public affairs, government or social change. These three women are examples of leaders that practice and live their lives with these important leadership qualities. Let it always be known that it is not men alone who possess these qualities... in fact, some of these qualities, like collaboration, listening and passion, tend to be identified as female qualities, though leaders like Lincoln, Gandhi, Mandela and others possessed them and created breakthroughs as a result of practicing them. Let's do all we can to recognize, applaud and encourage these qualities in all our leaders and potential leaders. These are the leadership qualities that could help us create a world of peace and prosperity.

Leslie Grossman is an author, speaker, and leadership and business/relationship building expert (www.lesliegrossmanleadership.com). She is author of LINK OUT: How to Turn Your Network into a Chain of Lasting Connections (Wiley, 2013), vice chair of IMPACT Leadership 21 and on the board of Unleashed. She can be reached at leslie@lesliegrossmanleadership.com.