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June 21, 2002
The Official Word
 
Read more from...
Amy Dean
President, South Bay AFL-CIO, San Jose, California

Several years ago I saw something I’ve never forgotten. One day my counterpart in a set of difficult contract negotiations was accompanied by his supervisor. The boss wasn’t there to step in and cut the final deal, but only to offer moral support to his staff. It was a small gesture, but it was a reminder that leadership isn’t always about stepping out in front of others, but knowing how to let others step in front of you.

That’s something those in leadership positions sometimes forget, but it’s something particularly important for women to remember. Feminism’s mission has always been about more than helping women win power; it also teaches us to transform the way it’s exercised. Today, when women gain authority, too often we set aside our skills in collaboration and team building and instead adopt the most conventional approach to leadership. As a result we miss the opportunity to exercise leadership in the most meaningful way possible: by helping unleash the talents of others.

Most women leaders believe in serving as a role model for young girls. That’s great, but that’s only where our responsibilities begin. It’s also our job to help other women into leadership positions. The way to do that isn’t by encouraging younger women to change who they are to fit the status quo, but to challenge the status quo so others better appreciate the crucial leadership women can offer.





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