How many female leaders do you have as role models?


As you head towards the C-suite (or what ever it is you want to be when you grow up) it's probably pretty important to know who you are, what you stand for and what legacy you want to leave - either by the difference you make with the work you do, or your personal brand.

Interestingly, most of the role models we have in business and politics are men. I'm not saying men don't do a great job but it certainly helps to have alternative models of leadership so we can begin to truly understand that different leadership styles and options are not only "normal" but highly desirable.  

Balanced voice

I've written before about the importance of Balanced Voice. As a result I've chosen to do my part in restoring balance by predominantly using quotes by women as a counter balance. Well it's the same with leadership role models.  If all we ever see, read about or hear about are masculine role models, then we keep reinforcing the stereotype and fewer women will see leadership of business, government or community as viable or desirable options.

“Only 11% of top business school case studies have a female protagonist”
— Lesley Symons, HBR

Recently HBR published an article where a bunch of business schools and universities had allowed their material to be audited only to discover that the dial hasn't moved much in terms of reinforcing stereotypes about leadership.  Most texts books, case studies (and according to my own sources, lecturers in MBA programs) are male (and I suspect white males as well). While some concerted effort is being made and commitment by universities to change, until there is some element of transparency, reporting against a standard, or performance measurement against KPIs with a sting in the tail, things simply won't change. Why? I have my suspicions .... and it's a five letter word beginning with P.  But that's a story for another day. Want a hint? Head on over to Michael Kemmel's TED talk "why gender equality is good for everyone - men included". You'll get the gist.

So back to female leader role models - here are mine

Ann Sherry AO

One of my personal role models is Ann Sherry AO, CEO of Carnival and winner of the 2015 AFR Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards. Why do I admire her? Because of the extremely professional way she and her staff handled some pretty horrific PR problems in cruise lines of recent years. Despite intense public scrutiny and a pretty horrific crises to deal with, she led with honour, transparency and courage. Plus Ann knows how to speak her mind.

“I haven’t found myself constrained by the male models of leadership because I haven’t found them particularly inspiring, so why copy something you didn’t like?”
— Ann Sherry

Christine Lagarde

Another of my role models is Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF. Not only is she leading in a discipline that is stereotypically male, but she is creating change and understands the critical importance of caring for people in economic policy development.  Katty Kay and Claire Shipman interviewed her for their book The Confidence Code and her vulnerability around perfectionism, getting worn out and over preparing has been really helpful for me to learn about.

I hate to say there are female and male ways of dealing with power, because I think each of us has a male and a female part. But based on my own experience, women will tend to be inclusive, to reach out more, to care a little more.
— Christine Lagarde

Indra Nooyi

My third role model is Indra Nooyi - and I just want to say "wow". Here is a woman who went to her first job interview at a consulting firm in a sari and won the role. Indra is of Indian heritage, is super smart and an absolute commercially astute driving force to be reckoned with. Talk about smashing stereotypes and paving the way for diversity. Indra is the Chair of Pepsico and if you want to learn more about her, read this article on not being able to have it all.

Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization. I’ve never forgotten that.
— Indra Nooyi

What's your personal brand? And what will your legacy be?

One day, I'd like embody those qualities as my personal brand as well - honour, transparency and courage - along with being a catalyst for change, continually growing and learning, and caring for people.

  • So what's your personal brand right now? 
  • What's the personal brand you'd like to embrace in the future? 
  • Which female leaders do you admire?
  • And how would you like to be remembered?

Not sure where to start looking?  The Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list is a great place to start, along with the AFR Westpac Women of Influence. And maybe this will be all it takes to inspire you in your own leadership journey.

Vive la révolution!

#ambitionrevolution #feminineambition #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #CreateaCareerThatCounts

Amanda Blesing
  •  I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and art of amping smart and savvy.
  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game.
  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so



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