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Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way

Eleanor Roosevelt

Robin Gerber in “Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way” collected Eleanor Roosevelt’s thoughts and writings on leadership that I’ve summarized here. The book is well worth reading.

Learning the Hard Way

You cannot avoid your share of personal challenges, difficulties, and disasters. It is how you handle them that will determine how your leadership develops.

Recognize and cultivate your capacity for resilience.

Understand that you cannot change or control others; you can only change and control yourself.

Strive for self-mastery—the ability to help and heal yourself by your own actions. Learn something new. Divert and redirect your energy in ways that build your self-esteem and abilities.

Take time to reflect on your problems. Find a place that enhances your ability to concentrate and fully experience your feelings. Consider starting a journal. Recognize the importance of symbolism and history and gather strength from the knowledge that human experience, like leadership, is universal.

Search for optimism and affirmation in even the darkest experiences.

Use the strength that develops from your sorrow to act. Be a leader in command of yourself, sustained and driven by the power of your experience.

Find Your Leadership Passion

Finding your leadership passion will depend on clarifying your values. Values motivate great leadership, underpin the actions that you take to build your leadership, and lead to lasting and transforming change.

Leaders act within their environment. Every act of leadership based on your mission builds your capacity for making change on a larger and more transforming scale.

Leaders can learn to develop their achievement motivation. This “need to achieve” means always challenging yourself, working to the highest standards and overcoming obstacles in your way.

Take the phrase “I can’t” out of your vocabulary. Nobody succeeds by expecting to fail.

Take the word “should” out of your vocabulary. Act on your authentic wants and needs, not on those that are imposed by others.

Find like-minded people who share your passion. Learn from each other, and teach each other.

Finding your leadership passion will give you the perseverance, strength, and conviction to meet your goals.

Never give up your quest to find your leadership passion.

Leadership Your Way

Women often lead differently than men. Follow your authentic instincts for leadership.

Your leadership will be most effective if you stick to the mission of your organization.

Leading your way may means shaking things up, but that’s what leaders often have to do.

You can shake things up within the system by taking or creating a new job that offers fewer restrictions and greater opportunity to be creative.

Like all good leaders, you must “challenge the process” by questioning the status quo, looking for ways to be innovative, and exercising creativity. In this way, you can help your organization move ahead and succeed.

Be bold and principled in implementing your vision.

Stick to your principles and inspire others by acting on them. Demonstrate that you can be trusted and you will get the trust of those around you.

Give Voice to Your Leadership

Learn to be an effective personal communicator by getting honest feedback and honestly assessing your communications skills. Then use practice to improve.

Search for new ways to reach your audience to communicate your leadership messages.

Take your message to the audience you need to reach. The exact opportunity to communicate about yourself or your idea isn’t likely to come to you.

Show creativity in the content of your communications. Don’t take a “cookie-cutter approach.” Every situation presents new challenges for creative communication.

Show your sincerity and passion as you communicate in both words and images. If you don’t have the conviction to support your idea no one else will either.

Don’t hide your light behind anything or anyone.

Face Criticism with Courage

Build your firsthand knowledge around the issues and ideas where you want to take leadership. Don’t be desk-bound.

Reach out to people. Listen and learn about their concerns.

Develop your knowledge so that you’re prepared for your critics.

Be a leader who knows the way before she shows the way.

Understand that with leadership comes criticism. Expect it and be ready for it.

Distinguish between criticism that you value and can use versus criticism that is best ignored.

Handle criticism with less emotion and more intelligence. Be open to constructive ideas. Be strong in the face of unjust attacks.

Test your ideas on a small group before going public, and be ready to make adjustments based on feedback.

Stay true to your values and vision. Don’t let others impose a role on you or ascribe negative behaviors to you that really reflect their own issues.

Keep working on your understanding of yourself and lead according to your own beliefs and values.

Keep Your Focus

Remain true to your leadership passion even when you face drastically changed circumstances. You can adjust your vision to fit the times.

Make a plan. Remember that you don’t have to do everything all at once. Work one step at a time toward your vision, bringing people along as you go.

Believe that you can do the impossible. Focus on the future. Take time to think about what may happen and how it fits your plans.

Embrace change. See it as an opportunity not a setback. Be the person who steps up to the new challenge and brings others along.

Use every avenue, every method, and every opportunity to advance your vision.

Think in terms of transforming change— change that will have broad and long-lasting effect.

Stay focused on your goals and be persistent in pursuing them.

Build loyalty and a legacy to carry on transforming change by encouraging leadership in other people.

Contacts and Networking

Look for opportunities to network wherever you can. Take the initiative in meeting new people and looking for ways that you can help each other.

Be broad and inclusive in building your network. Sometimes the most helpful contact is the least obvious.

Recognize the give-and-take of networking. Look for ways you can help people meet their goals and assess how they can help you meet yours.

Be creative in bringing people into your sphere. Try asking their opinion and show that you listened. Invite them to a social event. Fix them up for a date. Look for ways to show that you care.

Look for areas of mutual interest, seek out others with shared goals, then form alliances that seek to meet everyone’s needs; build networks that further your goals.

Understand that networks and alliances are built over time. Be intentional about developing the right networks and alliances for your goals, and be patient.

People who seem peripheral to your goals now may be central to them in the future. Be open to everyone.

Be a “connector” linking people in your networks to each other.

Don’t overlook the social side of networking. Some people in your networks will become friends. Some friends will become part of a business network.

Lead by fully using all the resources your networks provide.

Embrace Risk

Leaders are risk takers who seek out and accept new challenges. Be a risk taker.

Recognize that all risk takers struggle with and overcome internal doubts and fears.

Focus on your abilities, your talents, and your strengths.

Work hard to overcome risk aversion, particularly in situations where you are in the minority.

Let other people help and advise you as you prepare to take a chance.

Accept that you will never be able to plan for or control every contingency; such is the nature of risk.

Be optimistic. Ask yourself: “What is the worst that can happen?” Get a realistic handle on your doubts and fears, then move ahead. Replace the “I can’t” refrain in your mind with “I can.”

Practice the positive—in your mind, in your discussions, in your relationships, in your actions. The glass is always half full if you want it to be.

Accept that there are problems you can’t control and focus on what you can do. Lead by example.

Understand that thinking and talking must lead to action—from yourself and others whom you inspire to act.

Remember that real change is the reward for leaders who accept risk and take action to bring about their dreams.

Never Stop Learning

Learn from everyone by inviting others to teach you.

Give any new idea a few minutes of your time. You never know what you can learn or how your leadership will be enhanced.

Be curious. Curiosity nurtures the souls and spirits of people.

Keep your organization and your brain healthy by offering challenge and revelation.

Learn and listen. Leaders who are the best learners are the best listeners.

Empower others by honoring their ideas with your serious attention and interest.

Be a leader who is a learner; be a learner who is a teacher; be a teacher who is a leader who motivates others to lead and learn.

Find the fun in learning, and spend time learning some things that are fun.

Discover things about yourself that will add to your confidence and competence as a leader.

Closing Thoughts from Eleanor

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.

We learn who we really are and then live with that decision.

To be useful is, in a way, to justify one’s own existence. The difficult thing, perhaps, is to learn how to be useful, to recognize needs, and to attempt to meet them.

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