For me, joining the Take The Lead team as the Leadership Ambassador Program Director is a little like coming home. I first met Gloria Feldt in the mid-90’s when I worked as the marketing communications director at Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties in Southern California and she was the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Though Gloria wouldn’t recall meeting me, I’ve held on to her messages from that time for more than 20 years. She encouraged an authentic and offensive stance in dealing with very controversial – and sometimes dangerous – issues. Even then, she was telling those in her camp to find their power and use it to create change. Her strategy resonated with me in so many ways and for so many reasons.
Like many children of the 70’s, I grew up with a working mom. Divorced and on her own, she always had flexible jobs like selling advertising, running her own barber shop and brokering real estate deals. I watched her relationships, both at work and at home, as she appeased, cajoled, flirted and fought for power. As a kid, I only recognized the unfairness inherent in the situation. I couldn’t see the cultural norms that created the systems at play. I know now that those experiences set me up to reach for parity throughout my life.
My early efforts to level the playing field were more self-involved than movement-minded. I was the only girl on our community basketball team in grade school and loved out-playing the boys. As the only girl cousin in my generation, I rejected my grandmother’s admonition to stop roughhousing with the boys because I might end up with scars on my legs that would make me unattractive to potential husbands. I continually tried to prove my worth as equal to (or better than) the boys in my world. I was, in many ways, repeating my mother’s perpetual struggle to find, claim and keep power.
College gave me the intellectual tools and practical experience to evolve to the next level. I took classes in politics, journalism and women’s studies. I volunteered for Planned Parenthood, interned at NARAL and served a short stint in the press office of a Massachusetts state senator. I learned the history of feminism, read the novels of American woman authors and became familiar with informal political processes.
About a year ago I rediscovered Gloria through her book, “No More Excuses”. I was inspired by the way she held women accountable for not only finding their own power, but using it. Her message, as far as I could tell, was a clear call to action and I wanted in. I subscribed to the Take the Lead newsletter. I followed and liked and stalked the Take the Lead organization online until I found the Leadership Ambassador program and signed up.
Though my previous work has changed the way many of my clients think about words and language, it didn’t get to the very personal barriers and beliefs that encourage or stifle the pursuit of power. Take the Lead builds an entire infrastructure to support the development of power not just in words, but in action and core values. The cognitive transformation that happens when women (and men) trade in “power over” for “power to” is life-altering. The freedom I’ve watched women find as they begin to fully inhabit the power they have to change their worlds is awe-inspiring.
But Take The Lead does more than just spark a fire with transformative thinking, the organization provides “The 9 Leadership Power Tools,” the “how-to” of creating change that makes a difference. The tools are actionable, accessible, and practical. The fundamental mind-shift of seeing power as located internally rather than externally sets women firmly on their own feet. Take The Lead clearly articulates, in the most deep-seated way, that power is an internal, renewable resource that is controlled by each of us individually.
I’ve long believed that we all have a responsibility to lead and that leadership doesn’t come from a job title, a degree, a corner office or a dedicated staff. Leadership comes from the way each of us shows up in our lives every day. Sometimes that means leading by example in conducting a difficult conversation or standing firm when negotiating with a domineering personality. Leadership shows up in our language, our choices and our relationships. When we each take responsibility as leaders in our individual worlds, we are forming the tributaries of leadership transformation that eventually flow into compelling culture change.
Over the last two decades, I’ve dedicated my career to helping organizations and individuals use their words to increase their worth. As a marketing, communications and research consultant, I’ve collaborated with all kinds of businesses and brands to find their language of resonance, their strength and their place in the marketplace. Now, I’m delighted to focus my attention and expertise on evolving the Leadership Ambassador program to the next level.
Take The Lead’s mission is ambitious: gender parity in leadership across all sectors by 2025. That’s just eight years to triple the number of women in Congress and in top leadership positions across all sectors and multiply the number of women in Fortune 500 c-suites by 12. The Leadership Ambassador Program has the potential to help realize the mission by delivering Take the Lead curriculum to audiences in every part of the nation. It’s my intention to serve as the cornerstone in this endeavor and to provide the structure, the system and the support to make sure women across all sectors have what they need to Take The Lead.