Feminist. Activist. Trailblazer. Gloria Steinem is all of those. In today’s final guest post for Women’s History Month, author and CEO Jardena London explains how Gloria Steinem’s leadership style inspires her.
‘Gloria Steinem models feminine leadership’: A guest post from CEO Jardena London
Gloria Steinem is most known as a feminist cultural icon, but if you look closely, you’ll see that the way she operates is even more impressive than what she’s accomplished.
There are many powerful female leaders in the world. The difference with Gloria Steinem is that she didn’t succeed by mimicking the traditional masculine leadership traits. I know from experience how hard it is to lead in a style with no role model and no pattern to follow. And when you try to lead differently, people aren’t used to it and dismiss it as “wrong.”
Gloria has a distinctly feminine style of leadership that has proven very effective. Feminine leadership style is notably humble, collaborative, and connective. Gloria embodies all three of these traits.
Gloria Steinem became a cultural icon without trying to be the center of attention. She acknowledged that her face and voice would be a valuable contribution to the feminist movement.
She humbly offered this power to the movement without taking power for herself. Ms. Steinem says she’s not passing the torch; she’s keeping it and using it to light the torch of others. This metaphor offers a great image of how Gloria wields feminine power.
“People now ask me if I’m passing the torch. I always explain that no, I’m keeping my torch, thank you very much. And I’m using it to light the torches of others.”
– Gloria Steinem, from the book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions
In a world that overvalues masculine leadership qualities, I have fallen into the trap that a big ego shows confidence. Gloria Steinem models confidence without ego. When Ms. Steinem speaks, she takes very little air time, but her few words are powerful.
When Ms. Steinem gives a speech, you may notice that she often shares the stage. Her speeches rarely use the word “I”; she talks about her accomplishments as “we.” When she takes questions from the audience, she won’t give expert advice, turning the question back to the audience member.
Cross-pollinating ideas and making connections are feminine leadership skills. Gloria describes Linking over Ranking as a way to connect people and ideas instead of judging. Most leadership activities involve ranking people and assessing ideas or progress. I wonder what work could be like if leaders spent more time linking ideas and people instead of evaluating them.
Gloria connects with people and connects people with each other. Her 2015 book My Life on the Road is a memoir of the people she met during her extensive travels.
Most of her interactions with strangers involve more listening than talking. And yet, she’s one of the most impactful speakers of all time.
And finally, the trait that I most admire about Gloria is that the girl’s got guts! She says what she thinks and makes no apologies but somehow delivers the message gracefully. I recently heard her tell a story where a reporter asked her if she regretted not having kids. She answered, “no, but I regret that you still think it’s okay to ask a woman that question, a question you would never ask a man.”
I am grateful to have Gloria as a model for what feminine leadership looks like. She lit my torch, and now I’ll light the torch of others.
About Today’s Writer, Jardena London
Jardena is a consultant (the good kind), author, speaker, and CEO of Rosetta Agile. She has spent the last 30 years finding ways to transform organizations so that our souls can flourish while our financials thrive.
Her book Cultivating Transformations: A Leader’s Guide to Connecting the Soulful and the Practical supports this mission by drawing a straight line between the processes we use, the way we feel, and the results we get so we nourish our souls while producing thriving financial outcomes. You can learn more about Jardena and explore her resources on leadership at www.jardenalondon.com
Top photo: Meet Jardena London. Photo used with Jardena’s permission.