It’s common for women to look toward other successful women for inspiration and support in becoming their best selves.
But inspiring female leaders — whether they be mothers, CEOs, first ladies, politicians, writers, or activists — should serve as important sources of guidance, insight, and leadership for everyone, regardless of gender.
The reason is simple: women possess and more purposefully cultivate certain qualities that men tend not to. Women typically have different, more empathetic perspectives, for example.
But perhaps even more importantly, elevating and empowering more female leaders would benefit our world and our culture simply by way of increased diversity. Traditionally male-dominated industries and institutions — many of which are in need of change — could be catalyzed by a more meaningful investment in the sort of female leaders who already serve as role models for young women across the world.
On a more personal level, I can attest that studying and learning from various great women in history has shaped who I am. They’ve informed the kind of leader I want to be as a CEO and co-pastor, as well as the kind of mother I want to be to my children. And, of course, they’ve inspired me — as I’m sure they do or would inspire you, too, no matter who you are.
Here are just three examples of the women who’ve made me the businesswoman, mother, and individual I am today.
1) My mother
My mother was an educator and counselor for 30 years. She began as a kindergarten teacher and rose through the ranks to become an assistant principal. I watched her influence her students, her colleagues, and her superiors simply by the way she carried herself and with how hard she worked to solve and think through the problems of others.
She taught me, in this way, what it looks like to truly help people.
How helping others solve problems requires thinking empathetically alongside them so as to truly understand what they’re going through and think about the problem from “their level.”
Thanks to her, I now know that being a real leader requires more than intelligence, ability, or even the capacity to inspire. It requires time, care, and genuine concern for the people you’re helping.
2) Dr. Betty Price
Dr. Price is a speaker and author whom I first saw in action at a conference she held for women in Los Angeles in 1986. There, she spoke of women’s empowerment and of how women should embrace their unique attributes to find and utilize a voice that’s truly their own, as our voices are more powerful when they’re honest and true.
She taught me, through words both written and spoken, not to fear speaking out and being heard — or, “rocking the boat,” as she once said.
Shaking things up, making noise, using your voice to call out injustice — that, she asserted, is what’s required of achieving change.
Just a few years ago, Dr. Price received the honor as “Woman of the Year” from the Los Angeles County Commission for Women in the Second District. It’s an award that was well deserved, since Dr. Price has helped women all over the world identify and tap into their best natural qualities. She’s inspired me to try to do the same through my work with the Radical Women’s Ministry and Prestige, which helps women involved in the sex industry.
3) Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt needs no introduction, but her story inspired me in a number of ways. Chief among them was how committed she was to civic engagement and to improving American communities. I see echoes of her in former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Here’s the truth: regardless how elevated a role you might have in your organization, community, or even country, at the end of the day, what matters is the direct impact you have on the community and the people you’ve been called upon to lead and serve.
Learning about Eleanor instilled in me a certain passion for human service, a deeper concern for the health of humanity, and an appreciation for the importance of getting your hands dirty if you want to lead. It’s not enough to just talk or offer words. You have to translate those words into action.
You don’t have to go far to find influential women, but it’s up to you to commit to studying them.
Maybe the women I’ve cited above don’t stir or inspire you the way they do me, and that’s fine. The world is full of inspiring women to study and learn from.
What matters is that we all commit to identifying and praising the women in our lives who do stir and inspire us with the same enthusiasm we dedicate to identifying and praising inspiring men. I know for a fact this will benefit your life on a personal level, but the truth is, looking toward women for inspiration will help our country and the world at large, too.