Inspirational leadership? Liz Free was recently asked ‘which women leaders do you most admire?’ This stumped her.
There are so many inspirational leaders to choose from; great performers, educationalists, entrepreneurs, scientists and humanitarians, alongside everyday acts of leadership I see in schools from staff and pupils who have significantly influenced their fields, their environments, the wider world – and beyond. I find inspiration all around and from those that can effect change beyond themselves: the very essence of leadership. This to me has never appeared as a gender issue. I was stumped by the question.
However, like all good questions, this has made me think. Do I have gender parity blindness when it comes to the seeds of my own inspiration? Who really inspires me as a leader?
Outside the realm of education, I started to explore public representations of female leaders and leadership. During a recent trip to Dubai, where I had the opportunity to observe some great examples of school leadership, I also came across Princess Reema Al Saud who is transforming access to sports for women in Saudi. I was inspired, not because she is a woman affecting change, but because she is affecting change.
‘Saudi women have always played a crucial part in the Kingdom’s social and economic life as a driving force behind growth in all domains and are now an integral part of the Kingdom’s sporting world as well’.
In her context and through her position, she is promoting and actioning change. She is demonstrating positive visible leadership affecting social change for the benefit of all. I find this inspirational.
In the world of business, I am inspired by women like Baroness Karren Brady. She has successfully pioneered a diverse portfolio career as a sporting executive, politician, television personality, newspaper columnist, author and novelist. Her list of professional success is extensive, and all by the age of 48. She has also championed approaches to identify female talent for the boardroom and works with Government in this field. All of this is impressive. However, it is not this specifically that I find inspirational, it is how she leads that I find inspirational.
Consistent high expectations, clarity of purpose and vision, intolerance of discrimination and supportive of the colleagues around her, she champions the individual and affects change through building the confidence, aspiration and expectations of those around her whilst also holding herself and her teams to account. She is supportive of endeavour, steadfast in demanding high professional conduct and decidedly successful in achieving her aims.
I have concluded that inspirational leadership is wholly subjective and dependent on day, place and space. What inspires me today, may be different tomorrow.
Inspirational leadership for me is not about ‘female’ leadership, it is about leadership.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t need to see representations of female leadership that are as diverse as the diverse women within our communities. But much more than this, for sustainable change, we need visible diversity and representations of leadership behaviours and manifestations of inclusive leadership, regardless of gender.
So for IWD2018, as we #PressforProgress, let’s think about inclusive leadership that affects sustainable change for the benefit of all as we drive for social change and in creating inspiring leaders and leadership for the future world, where we look solely at great leaders and leadership and not gender.