Continuing our theme on leadership this month and celebrating International Women‘s Day, I want to share and celebrate a few amazing women with lessons for us all on leadership, and living our lives to the full.
From business icons, charity workers and political leaders they have all made my list.
Please note this list is not indicative of any of my political affiliations, either past or present!
1. Joan of Arc
Ironic that as an Englishwoman, Joan of Arc was the first person I thought of when creating my list. I guess the Englishmen of the 14th century was a very different breed as they decided this frail young girl was a massive threat and therefore must be burnt at the stake.
I remember being read stories about Joan of Arc many years ago.
I even thought she was a fictional character. I mean who could face the upheaval, battles and constant challenges only to be betrayed by one of her team.
I suspect Joan had more of her fair share of resilience, a vital attribute for today’s leader.
Think of it, she was only 19 when she died…?
A lesson for all of us that you are never too young to move forward and achieve great things no matter how old you are.
2. Catherine The Great
Possibly one of the most famous women in history.
The things she accomplished are hard to get your head around, especially when you consider we’re talking about the 1700s here and the eastern bloc, not exactly known for its liberating view towards women at the time.
Catherine the Second, as she was also known, was a creative individual with a fantastic vision; note leaders everywhere, how critical this is.
She is responsible for continuing Peter the Great’s work in modernising Russia, bringing it more in line with the West’s ideas on what is ok and isn’t ok!
Oh, and she also defeated the Ottoman Empire in two big wars and greatly expanded Russia’s Empire over three continents.
Hardly a slacker.
What I love about the stories I read about Catherine is that she was a lady who worked hard and played hard!
Alongside winning wars and modernising Russia, she was also partial to having many lovers in her life.
Her obsession with erotic furniture and nymphomania are also well documented.
As a female leader, she really did embrace the concept that you could have it all.
3. Ellen Degeneres
From Disney Superstar to an ‘outed actress’ and winner of the congressional medal of honour.
A definite lady to admire and model when it comes to finding your true path in life – her apparent net worth is now over 400 million dollars.
It’s hard to believe Ellen ‘came out’ when it wasn’t the ‘done thing’ nearly 21 years ago, as I write this post.
However, for her, it was the ‘right’ thing to do.
Being authentic is a trait of true leaders everywhere. Well done Ellen and thanks for showing us all that following your path might have a few bumps in the road; however, the destination is worth it.
Oh, and Ellen revealed her sexuality on this woman’s talk show…
4. Oprah Winfrey
From a child brought up in challenging circumstances to a globally recognised billionaire, where do you start with the lessons Oprah can teach us?
She has won multiple awards including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Tony Award, and an Emmy Award. Forbes named her the 21st Most Powerful Woman in the World in 2017.
In a recent video, she quoted her success to continually improving, taking risks, leveraging strengths and getting help to improve weaknesses.
Oh and from a practical standpoint, improve your presentation skills.
If you haven’t watched this address to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, it’s well worth a watch.
5. Gabby Giffords
Gabrielle Giffords is someone many people had not heard of before January the 8th 2011.
Gabby was the victim of an assassination attempt in 2011 in Arizona. At the time she was a member of the United States House of Representatives.
Although shot in the head, she miraculously survived and she has regained her ability to talk, walk, and resume many of her day-to-day activities.
Her injury left her with severe brain damage, which through sheer tenacity she managed to work through.
If ever there was someone who exhibited grit and enviable leadership attributes, then Gabby is that woman.
6. Sara Blakely
Sara Blakely is the billionaire businesswoman who went from selling fax machines door to door to being a saviour for many fashion conscious women when she launched Spanx, the well–known underwear that pulls everything in!
For those marketers reading this, Sarah gives us all a lesson in not overthinking things.
She decided on the name Spanx when she realised how much it made her laugh.
Note to self: Life shouldn’t always be taken so seriously.
She is renowned for taking simple ideas to market and making them a success.
Recognised as a real expert in ‘going for it,’ here are two of my favourite quotes of hers:
“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.”
“When I was a child, my father used to encourage my brother and me to fail. At the dinner table, instead of asking about the best part of our day, he would ask us what we failed at that week. If we didn’t have something to tell him, he would be disappointed. When we shared whatever failure we’d endured, he’d high-five us and say, ‘Way to go!’. The gift my father gave us by doing this was redefining what failure truly meant.”
7. Queen Elizabeth II
I couldn’t end my list without recognising H.R.H.
Leaders today need to be inspiring. I am not sure I could lead the country with such finesse and composure at 92 years of age and still be one of the most active royals when it comes to public engagements.
If you aren’t inspired by these facts alone, I’m disappointed.
The Queen demonstrates so many leadership lessons for us all.
- Appearance matters
- Sometimes it’s about showing up
- What you say will be critical to your success
- Always get back on the horse
Elizabeth never thought she would be Queen in the first place. Let’s be honest; Edward VIII threw a spanner in the works when he abdicated, throwing her dad a curve ball too; because he never really wanted to be King either!
Here she is 66 years later ticking all the boxes on her performance objectives.
I couldn’t resist ending on this quote from the Queen who, when questioned about how she managed to do all the things she does, replied as follows:
“It’s all to do with the training: you can do a lot if you’re properly trained.”
I’ll end my celebration of amazing women here.
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