Reimagining Leadership

Last weekend, I heard Kitty Kolbert, the Director of the Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, say, "If we can develop women as leaders, we can also develop men to be better leaders." Hosting a TEDxWomen event to "re-imagine leadership," The Athena Center for Leadership Studies had organized a day of live performances, inspiring the audience to consider the less tangible factors of leadership -- such as humanity, courage and resilience. Each performance reflected Athena's "Core 10," a unique set of core competencies specifically developed for women leaders. Athena's Core10 are:

• Ambition - Own your power, expertise and value
• Advocacy - Speak up for yourself and on behalf of others
• Communication - Listen actively; speak persuasively and with authority
• Courage - Experiment and take bold, strategic risks
• Entrepreneurial Spirit - Be innovative, imaginative, persistent, and open to change
• Inspiration - Motivate and nurture talented people and build collaborative teams
• Leverage - Optimize your networks
• Negotiation - Bridge differences and find solutions that work effectively for all parties
• Resilience - Bounce back and learn from adversity and failure
• Vision - Develop strategies, make decisions, and act with purpose

The day was punctuated by a live stream video featuring social strategist and author, John Gerzema. The audience cheered when hearing that 2/3rds of the men and women in Gerzema's studies "thought the world would be a better place if men thought more like women." He and fellow researcher Michael D'Antonio recognize a trend suggesting that "the most innovative people among us are breaking from traditional structures to become more flexible, more nurturing, and more collaborative." Their findings led them to study the traits of masculinity and femininity and motivated them to get clearer about what it means to think "like a woman." Identifying a consistency between what people thought was masculine and feminine, they also discovered some facts that surprised them:

That the essence of a modern leader is feminine as is preferred by people around the world. They see an effective leader as one who shares their feelings and emotions more openly and honestly rather than a closed power system. We're also looking for a leader who plans for the future, that does long-term planning, rather than being politically expedient. We're also looking for leaders who are patient and reasonable and can build consensus to get things done. We're also looking for decisiveness and resilience but also for leaders who are able to be collaborative, patient, and passionate.

Gerzema and D'Antonio decided to call these qualities the "Athena Style of Leadership," and stress, "that there is an economic benefit to including the feminine voice everywhere in the world."

The time is now for women's natural collaborative leadership style to be valued. How fitting it is that Kolbert described the work at The Athena Center as "teaching young women how to use both their heads and their hearts to make the world a better place." As the 21st Century unfolds, the challenge is on for women to value our differences, raise our voices, be our authentic selves and dare to lead.