Global Leadership: Women Leaders

Article excerpt

Global Leadership and the Twenty-first Century

In his speech accepting the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, Vaclav Havel (1994, p. A27), President of the Czech Republic, eloquently explained that:

There are good reasons for suggesting that the modern age has ended. Many

things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when

it seems that something is on the way out and something else is

painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying

and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were

arising from the rubble.

Havel's appreciation of the transition that the world is now experiencing is certainly important to each of us as human beings. None of us can claim that the twentieth century is exiting on an impressive note, on a note imbued with wisdom. As we ask ourselves which of the twentieth century's legacies we wish to pass on to the children of the twenty-first century, we are humbled into shameful silence. Yes we have advanced science and technology, but at the price of a world torn asunder by a polluted environment, by cities infested with social chaos and physical decay, by an increasingly skewed income distribution that condemns large proportions of the population to poverty (including people living in the world's most affluent societies), and by rampant physical violence continuing to kill people in titulary limited wars and seemingly random acts of violence. No, we do not exit the twentieth century with pride. Unless we can learn to treat each other and our planet in a more civilized way, is it not blasphemy to continue to consider ourselves a civilization (Rechtschaffen 1996)?(1)

The dynamics of the twenty-first century will not look like those of the twentieth century; to survive as a civilization, twenty-first century society must not look like the twentieth century. For a positive transition to take place, the world needs a new type of leadership. Where will society find wise leaders to guide it toward a civilization that differs so markedly from that of the twentieth century? While many people continue to review men's historic patterns of success in search of models for twenty-first century global leadership, few have even begun to appreciate the equivalent patterns of historic and potential contributions of women leaders (Adler 1996). My personal search for leaders who are outside of traditional twentieth century paradigms has led me to review the voice that the world's women leaders are bringing to society. This article looks at the nature of global leadership and the role that women will play at the most senior levels of world leadership.

Leadership: A Long History

To lead comes from the latin verb "agere" meaning to set into motion (Jennings 1960). The Anglo-Saxon origins of the word to lead come from "laedere", meaning people on a journey (Boman/Deal 1991). Today's meaning of the word leader therefore has the sense of someone who sets ideas, people, organizations, and societies in motion; someone who takes the worlds of ideas, people, organizations, and societies on a journey. To lead such a journey requires vision, courage, and influence.

According to U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, leadership involves "creating a state of mind in others" (Cantor/Bernay 1992, p. 59). Leaders, therefore, are "individuals who significantly influence the thoughts, behaviors, and/or feelings of others" (Gardner 1995, p. 6). Beyond strictly focusing on the role of the leader, leadership should also be thought of as interactive, as "an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes ... [reflecting] their mutual purposes" (Rost 1991, p. 102). In addition, according to Bolman and Deal (1995, p. 5), true leadership also includes a spiritual dimension:

Two images dominate [concepts of leadership]: one of the heroic champion

with extraordinary stature and vision, the other of the policy wonk,

the skilled analyst who solves pressing problems with information,

programs, and policies. …