I teach classes and workshops on authentic leadership presence, and have been focusing a lot lately on what women's leadership looks and sounds like. So I was excited yesterday to attend a panel discussion hosted by the Council of Women World Leaders at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
I was not disappointed! It was a lively discussion, featuring Tarja Halonen, President of Finland; Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, currently head of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice; and Margot Wallstrom, UN Special Representative to the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. These were just a few members of this extraordinary group. The Council of Women World Leaders was the brainchild 15 year ago of Laura Liswood, who decided that there should be place where the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the world who happen to be women can gather. The 45 members of this group continue to support each other in myriad ways.
Yesterday's discussion gave some very specific instances of that support on a global scale. It also dealt with some common threads running through issues of leadership particular to women in top positions. I was struck by the even-handed tone of the morning: men (in general) are not all enemies. In fact, women must work with progressive men to further an agenda that supports women and families. President Halonen said "You cannot choose your gender, but you can choose to be a feminist." A good line; I will use it in the future!
I will also share the many creative definitions of leadership that were offered up. Today's blog title, for example, is Vivaldi's short list of attributes necessary for a great composer. Laura Liswood pointed out that these same attributes must be present in a great leader. Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast offered this advice to leaders who need to find personal courage to get through tough times: "You have to develop energy from assaults and turn them into positive momentum." And my favorite, attributed by Ms. Liswood to Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former President of Iceland (in 1980, the first woman in the world to be elected President in a national election): "We women are like snowflakes. One may melt, but together we can stop traffic."