Leadership Lessons from Boston

I was often in my hometown outside of Boston during the weeks during and following the Boston Marathon bombings. As I listened to President Obama, Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Menino in public statements and news conferences,  I was struck by their leadership - especially during their addresses in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

What I noticed was the skill with which they reached out to engage the greatness in their listeners. As you know by now, "engaging the greatness in others" is one of 3 interdependent leadership skills identified in my definition of leadership.

Here are a few examples of how they did this. As you review them, think about how you could do the same in your leadership role.

From President Obama
"You’ve shown us, Boston, that in the face of evil, Americans will lift up what’s good. In the face of cruelty, we will choose compassion. In the face of those who would visit death upon innocents, we will choose to save and to comfort and to heal. We’ll choose friendship. We’ll choose love."
Rather than call for vengeance and retribution, he chose to focus on compassion and love. And later he reminds the people of Boston of their inner strength and the support of others.
"And that’s what you’ve taught us, Boston. That’s what you’ve reminded us -- to push on. To persevere. To not grow weary. To not get faint. Even when it hurts. Even when our heart aches. We summon the strength that maybe we didn’t even know we had, and we carry on. We finish the race. We finish the race.
And we do that because of who we are. And we do that because we know that somewhere around the bend a stranger has a cup of water. Around the bend, somebody is there to boost our spirits. On that toughest mile, just when we think that we’ve hit a wall, someone will be there to cheer us on and pick us up if we fall. We know that."
From Governor Patrick
"I am thankful maybe most especially for the countless numbers of people in this proud city and storied Commonwealth who in the aftermath of such senseless violence let their first instinct be kindness. In a dark hour so many of you showed so many of us that darkness can not drive out darkness as Dr. King said.
...we're organized around a handful of civic ideals...equality, opportunity, freedom and fair play...we must not permit darkness and hate to triumph over our civic faith. It cannot happen, it will not. We will recover and repair, we will grieve our losses and heal, we will rise and we will endure. We will have accountability without vengeance, vigilance without fear....the grace this tragedy exposed is the best of who we are."
 And Mayor Menino whose theme was love.
"It is a good morning because we are together, we are one Boston. No adversity, no challenge, nothing can tear down the resilience, the heart of this city and its people...love has covered this resilient city...Love the brave ones who felt the blast, but still raced to the smoke...We love the fathers and brothers who took shirts off their backs to stop the bleeding. The mothers and the sisters who cared for the injured. The neighbors and business owners the homeowners all across the city who opened their doors and their hearts to the worried and the scared...we'll get through this together."
In his own way, each of these politicians sought, grabbed hold of and held up to the light all that is great in the people of Boston. They called for unity rather than divisiveness. They reminded people of their inner strength and how it compels caring acts. They help people turn aside fear. These are things that true leaders do - in all walks of life.

As you think about the challenges you face every day - new projects, changes in organization structure and threats from the external environment; ask yourself what greatness in those around me can I honor and proclaim? Whose spirit can I acknowledge? When faced with a challenge, how can I shine light on the greatness of your team members and give them strength to forge ahead?

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono, CEO and Founder Leading Women
Author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring. Underway is her new book, Network! What corporate women need to know about strategic relationships and success
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Find the Courage to Take Your Next Step!

Recently a friend and colleague pointed out this quote from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.

“Fear is at the root of so many barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter.”

It spoke to her because of work she’s doing on the impact of fear on women’s advancement. I had this response (in black with quotes sprinkled throughout):

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.”
Anaïs Nin

Thanks for sending along Sheryl's quote. I disagree slightly with it...fear isn't "at the root of so many barriers that women face." That makes it sound like fear is something outside of women that feeds barriers that spring up on our paths through life. That’s not how fear operates.
Fear is an inner feeling that a woman creates based on her unique response to a given circumstance.  I look at a climbing wall and, because of my fear of heights, am loathe to climb it. Another woman looks at it and is exhilarated by the challenge. I go horse camping in the backcountry of Yellowstone with grizzlies and wolves and travel by myself around the world - things other women might be too afraid to do.
“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires...courage...”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Instead of believing that fear feeds barriers that women face, I would say that "fear is at the root of so many excuses that women make." (I know it's harsh, but it's true.) A nicer way to say it is that "fear is at the root of so many ways women hold ourselves back." 

Thinking of fear this way is empowering. By believing that in the face of any given fear we actively decide whether to hold ourselves back (or not) we see that the solution lies within our control - it is to tap our courage.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay

We all experience one or more of the fears that Sheryl cites. If we tap courage and act regardless of these fear we will be successful - not only in our careers, but also our lives. I call this "having the mindset of a winner." It doesn't mean being competitive, it means believing that one will prevail, that any obstacle can be overcome and that we have within ourselves the courage to act.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that 
something else is more important than fear.”
James Neil Hollingworth aka Ambrose Redmoon

It is important to acknowledge fear, not to give it power, but to seek what's more important that will compel us to tap our courage! That thing that is more important might be the next step on the career ladder, it might be resolve to not see a less worthy man get that opportunity, it might be the drive to fulfill the one's gifts, or the desire to be a better provider for her family. No matter what it is, a woman who wants to live a rich live has to intentionally place her fear on the back burner and do what might scare, but will fulfill, her.

You live life this way - it's one reason you're such a joy to work with! Let's keep helping other women do the same.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono, CEO and Founder Leading Women
Author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring. Underway is her new book, Network! What corporate women need to know about strategic relationships and success
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Equal Pay...What's Up in Your Company?

April 9, 2013 is Equal Pay Day so we thought we'd share information that might spark a conversation in your company.

Last year, through the work of an amazing group of women and the participation of key HR professionals, Vision 2020 RI surveyed many of Rhode Island's largest employers about their gender equity practices.  Here's what we discovered about equal pay.

What Vision 2020 Asked

1.     Does your Human Resource function conduct wage equity audits that look for inequities in compensation between men and women at the same level/position?
  • Yes, annually.
  • Yes, every other year.
  • Yes, less often than every other year.
  • Yes, we conducted a one-time baseline.
  • We don't do wage equity audits at this time.

2.     Without divulging any confidential information, please indicate the results of your audits.
  • We have not done wage equity audits.
  • We have frequently made adjustments to restore wage equity.
  • We have occasionally made adjustments to restore wage equity.
  • We have rarely made adjustments to restore wage equity.
  • We have never found inequities and therefore have not made adjustments.

Why Vision 2020 Asked

While the size of the wage gap has diminished over the past 4 decades, the gap persists across for and non-profit sectors. The WAGE Project estimates that over the course of her life a high school graduate will lose $700,000 in earnings, a college graduate $1.2 million and a woman with a graduate degree nearly $2 million.

The implications for women and their families are significant. Four out of ten women are equal or main breadwinners for their families. These lost earnings impacts the well-being of not only the women, but entire families. And because future security in the form of pensions or other retirement vehicles depends on compensation, the wage gap threatens women’s security in old age.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that at the current slow rate of closure, it will take nearly another 50 years (estimate is 2056) for women to reach pay equity.

What Vision 2020 Learned

Organizations are aware of and actively work to diminish the wage gap. Seventy percent of for-profit respondents of our survey have conducted such a study and 31% conduct them annually.  Of the non-profit respondents 88% have conducted such studies with 28% conducting them annually or every other year.

There is much controversy about whether the wage gap is fact or fiction. Our data suggests that organizations recognize it as fact. Thirty nine percent (39%) of for-profit respondents and 50% of non-profit respondents have found and corrected inequities. Only 30% have never or rarely found inequities. This number is higher among non-profit organizations where 50% have made adjustments on occasion.

Recommendations for Action

Since the 1970s, organizations have conducted analyses of compensation to determine pay equity for women and men performing in the same positions (with similar tenure and performance).  Today’s sophisticated Human Resource information systems make it easier than ever to conduct such wage equity audits.  Making these audits a regular part of HR’s compensation analysis cycle would ensure that the wage gap in for-profit and nonprofit organizations is eliminated well before 2056.
 What's up with wage equity audits in your organization?

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono, CEO and Founder Leading Women
Author of No Ceiling, No Walls and Make the Most of Mentoring. Underway is her new book, Network! What corporate women need to know about strategic relationships and success
Follow on Twitter | LittlePinkBook | Facebook | LinkedInGroup | LinkedIn