Talking Leadership presents an impressive and thought-provoking look at variation and commonality in the lives and leadership approaches of some of today's outstanding women, whose fields range from philanthropy to politics, and from business to academia. Regardless of their different backgrounds and areas of expertise, these women are united in a commitment to positive change - change that includes improving women's lives and options.
This book encourages readers to expand their definition of who a "leader" is and can be. In addition to occupants of formal positions on the upper rungs of major institutions, it urges the inclusion of those whose ability to influence and move people is expressed through teaching, writing, or taking action in arenas-whether local or global-that include neighborhood communities and even family households. The women in Talking Leadership were selected not only for their impressive achievements but for their willingness to offer candid and thoughtful assessments of their experiences in leadership - the costs as well as the rewards, the strategies that worked and those that failed.
Reading from Text
Hartman, Mary S. Talking Leadership: Conversations with Powerful Women, illustrated edition. Rutgers University Press, 1999. ISBN 0813525608.
Overview of Text
Talking Leadership details inspirational qualities and ideas to look for in those we follow. Based on interviews with 13 women, whose careers ranged from politics and business to academia, Talking Leadership offers insight from prominent female figures, such as former Representative Patricia Schroeder and New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman.
But leadership is defined beyond those occupying formal positions in business and politics. It includes "those whose ability to influence and move people has been demonstrated through teaching, writing, or being effective actors on a whole variety of less prominent stages -- regional sites, neighborhood communities, and even family households."
After discussing various aspects of leadership with the women who participated in interviews for the book, editor Mary Hartman concludes, "We need to re-image leadership, to think in new ways about what leadership is and what it might be and to articulate more forcefully why it maters." Hartman notes that the most important aspect of leadership is one's core principles, but she adds that she found four other points of consensus among the study's participants. These points are essential to both leadership and mid-career development:
Create and act upon your own vision.
As the saying goes, if you don't know where you are going, you'll end up somewhere else. If you haven't defined your strengths and talents and how to use these for the betterment of yourself and society, explore your options by working with a qualified career counselor. To find one in your location, contact the National Board for Certified Counselors, or attend community workshops on career direction or leadership development. By taking responsibility to create and act upon your vision, you will be exercising leadership at work and in your family life.
2) Learn from criticism.
This is a tough one for most of us. It's not easy to accept criticism, yet often there's a grain of truth in what others heap on us. That doesn't mean we're obligated to correct every remark and action. However, it is our job to listen to constructive criticism and correct what's appropriate, since all of us benefit from some improvement.
3) Keep a focus on positive change.
According to Hartman, each participant shared a commitment to positive change and came to the same conclusion: if the world needs changing, individuals have a duty to enact at least part of that change. This meant connecting with people who represent mutual interests and who have the staying power to affect change, especially when it isn't popular or when your ideas are out of favor. To keep focused in good and bad times, run with your ideas when they're hot and find and cultivate supportive advocates when times change.
4) Take risks.
Ask for the help that you need to move your career or ideas forward. Find mentors and networks that back your ideas and projects. Ask your employer to support your continuing education efforts, including attendance at leadership development programs like those offered at the Center for Creative Leadership.
By learning more about new leadership styles, insights and inspirations imparted in Talking Leadership, you will define your own leadership role and polish your abilities on the job and in your community. In the process you may find you've created a vision and qualities for others to follow into the millennium.