Introduction to Leading Ladies
It is our belief the serving nature of leadership is at the heart of humanity.
Our message is simple: leadership is love. And it is through that message leaders need to empower voices around the globe, young and young at heart, to build a world of ‘we’ through service and community-based action.
This project is our opportunity to bring disparate ‘voices’ from around the world together in a harmonious opus that recognizes the only way a better world awaits our children and our children’s children is if ‘we’ work on it together now so communities around the world may more effectively embrace and engage those around them to create the world we all seek, a peaceful world where everyone is entitled to hope, joy, and possibility. Paul Hawken, in Blessed Unrest, writes,
“Some believe that to address meaningfully existing political and economic institutions, the movement [a collection of movements in this case] must centralize to present a viable alternative in scale. Many others would argue traditional, hierarchical forms of organization that require homogeneous agendas and goals are outmoded throughout the modern world, and that this movement [of movements] is a harbinger of change. The answer may lie in the middle.”
Virtuous Leadership is that middle!
Take this project for example. Ladies from around the globe joining forces to bring you diverse perspectives and valuable insights certain to bring life and vitality to your leadership journey.
Between these pages lies a vast treasury of time-honored teachings and traditions that demonstrate fundamental traits of character. We know them better as Virtues. We recognize them as principles of greatness, ideals, and an uncommon goodness embodied in the wisdom of humanity.
These ladies, like Socrates before them, graciously bring us face to face with the recurring themes, lessons, and legendary reminders that elucidate the truth. They stand together for what they hold to be true, even if their position, to quote Martin Luther King, Jr., “is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular.” What matters, of course, is that they take their position because it is right. No longer need anyone, least of all these ladies, surrender to socially sanctioned practices and ideas bound by uncommon interests that cause some of our greatest collective griefs. Nor need they stand off in the shadows, casting but a dim light on a silent vigil that yearns to awaken and disturb the allegiance to their calling, a calling that teaches not something we must do to become better leaders but, instead, what we must become if we are to lead.
You see, these ladies possess the courage to stand up to the world’s expectation. Each of us possesses a unique work in life and, only with exceeding effort, can we begin to contain our innate yearning to share it. It is to that end we must find our voice and be ourselves. Like a good wine, however, we cannot rush the process. Margaret Atwood tells us, “We can only find our own meaning in our own time.” Let no one mislead you. It is much easier to talk about finding our voice than it is to actually unearth and share it. A battle rages deep below the surface to pit our desire to be liked, accepted, and esteemed with an inconvenient calling to serve — to speak out for those who have no voice of their own. Luciano Pavarotti said, “The rivalry is with our self. I try to be better than is possible. I fight against myself, not against the other.” This is an important matter, as these ladies can attest.
Oft times, we are left with little choice but to set aside all we stand for as we search the furthermost reaches of our being for our true self. In the subtle convergence of time and space, we are surprised to learn our voice, through authenticity and personal truth, finds us — in so doing, it gives our life rich intonation. It also gives us the courage not only to open a new door in our life, but to walk through it — to cross a threshold to newfound freedom, a freedom that looks to our childhood for clues to courageously face our world as adults.
Courage can be elusive; however, it is necessary all the same. You see, not every door will open to self-actualization; many will present added challenges, repeated trials, and sweeping tribulations that cause us to shake in our boots. Others will cast a light on our greatest fears: isolation, loneliness, or despair. Nevertheless, through the doors we must proceed. An unrelenting call signals our march along the well-worn path of life that winds its way here and there, from one door to the next. Our response, over time, teaches us we cannot be selfish with our voice; nor, should I think, we would want to. Our voice finds us because we are the only one in all of Creation who can use it for the good of humanity. It finds us because no other exists who can wield it, like King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, in pursuit of truth, honor, freedom, and love. It finds us because our life’s story is part of the larger whole, and it needs to be told. You see, when you zero in on the heart of the matter, our voice really isn’t ours at all. It belongs to humanity, and it wants to be heard. And those around us need to hear it.
They need to hear it because they, too, are timid and unsure. You see, our tendency, time and time again, is to shake the hand of a well-dressed business man before we reach out to the homeless. Our tendency, time and time again, is to fear what we think can happen to us forgetting all the good that can come to another if we but extend our hand in friendship. Something Mother Teresa said comes into play here: “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received (e.g., our voice!) and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.” We are easily ashamed, I suppose, because our tendency, time and time again, is to think of our voice as merely another unworthy instrument to be heard among the roar of millions when, in fact, our voice — just one voice — has the power to illuminate the prevailing darkness that holds so many hostage. You see, our voice, when used to help another, knows no limit; it remains unbounded. It is during those times when we step out of our comfort zone and, as necessary, boldly step into the comfort zone of others, that we not only end the silence of our own misfortune, but we end the misfortune that affects so many. Our voice, in response to the pleas and the cries of others, proliferates, swelling over the banks of a mighty river much like love swoops in as a fair luminous mist curling to fill empty spaces and uninhabited places of the heart.
Through the work offered herein, what we come to know is something these ladies already know: leadership is love, and leadership without love is no leadership at all. Many believe love is a feeling that overcomes them when they least expect it. Others look at it more as an obligation, a duty if you will. But love is so much more. So much more, in fact, the ancient Greeks devised four words to help capture its immensity. Eros is the love that gets our fires burning. Storge is the love warmly shared by a parent and child, a familial love. Philia is a love most often associated with great friendship. Philadelphia, for example, is the city of ‘brotherly love.’ What’s common about these first three classes of love is their reflection of deep, emotional attachment. Paul, a first-century Roman citizen and Hebrew Pharisee from the Mediterranean city of Tarsus, describes the fourth attribute, agape, in his letter to the residents of the cosmopolitan city of Corinth some 2,000 years ago. In this letter, we learn,
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Agape is a love that not only loves, but also gives … because it wants to. Agape gives without expecting anything in return. Agape is other-centered; it is about self-denial for the sake of another. Alan Redpath describes this love as “the actual absorption of our being in one great passion.”
Paul could have just as easily been writing about leadership. Go ahead. Try it. Insert the word leadership where you see the word love. Now think about great leaders, past and present. Any commonality? It is highly likely all of them demonstrated a tendency to lead with love. Returning briefly to Paul, we learn some years later in a letter he wrote to the people of Philippi,
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.
Friends, before you this day is a collection of such things. Herein, you shall find the makings for …
Hope, Joy, and Possibility.
People the world over want to be part of something that makes a difference, they want to make a positive impact on our world. The ladies in this book have taken action to shape the future. Their collective voices essentially represent every age, socioeconomic demographic, race, religion, and culture in our world. Their words tell a remarkable story that provokes thought, supports action, and inspires; a story that reminds us we have but one world, a world many call Mother Earth, a story that invites us to share but one love.
Across many indigenous cultures, this power draws from the strength of a circle. The Lakota teach us, “In the Circle, we are all equal. When in the Circle, no one is in front of you. No one is behind you. No one is above you. No one is below you. The Sacred Circle is designed to create unity.” Isn’t that what storytelling does? It unites us. It forges a common bond.
Storytelling transforms lives. We rely on the often unconstrained impact of stories every day in every facet of life: art, law, medicine, education, business, and community calls to action, to name a few. Story-telling is as old as humanity itself. It clearly predates recorded history, and we see evidence of its use around the world. Stories tell us who we were, what we knew, where we came from, and where we are going. They reflect our life as it was, and as it is. They give us insights into what life might become. Stories talk to community, in the broadest sense. They explain how life came to be, and why and how we celebrate it.
Every culture exists, in part, because of the stories others needed to tell. Stories teach. Stories inspire. Stories encourage. Stories motivate. Storytelling opens our minds to new horizons, to the realm of possibility comfortably nestled deep within the dominion of the impossible. Storytelling is powerful. It invites the listener to develop an intimate awareness; it nourishes the imagination. It honors life. Like an enlightened awareness, storytelling grooms connection and builds relationships. Some stories take but a moment to share; others need a generation to express the wonder and majesty of our journey, a journey without beginning or end, a part of the greater whole. Our work — to find our voice — is a life’s journey that lies somewhere in between.
The stories these ladies tell cut across many dimensions; their meaning extends from the toils of everyday life to the extravagance of the divine. Their stories embrace power befitting kings, power that transcends time, matter, and space.
In this book, you will find a virtuous leadership that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. You will find leadership dripping in love. “Love,” Oliver Wendell Holmes tells us, “is the master key that opens the gate of happiness.” I personally like what Martin Luther King, Jr, has to say about the matter: “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” How does it do that? Quite simply, it covers (bears) all things; said differently, it never brings discredit for the wrong-doing of another. Spurgeon puts it this way: “Love stands in the presence of a fault with a finger on her lip.” You see, love nudges us in but one direction: to continually look for the good in others. Why? Because we are certain to find it. Isn’t that what leadership is all about?