It may sound easier said than done to maintain a strong sense of self when making allegations of sexual harassment against a U.S. Supreme court nominee; or being the sole dissenting vote in a corporate board decision dictating the fate of a Fortune 500 company. But Anita Hill and Monica Lozano make it look like just another day in the life of a leader.
During the Toigo GroundBreakers Summit for Women on Leadership, I had the privilege of moderating a discussion on the core qualities of great leadership between Anita Hill, Senior Advisor to the Provost and Professor of Law at Brandeis University, and Monica Lozano, CEO of impreMedia and active board member for Bank of America, The Walt Disney Company and The Rockefeller Foundation.
In spite of having pursued very different paths to leadership, both women espoused similar core tenets on leadership, including championing culture and an even stronger sense of self. These are leadership traits extolled by both men and women in my research for The Athena Doctrine. For instance, we found that 60% of people worldwide (and 67% of Millennials) would work for less money at a company whose culture and values they admired.
During our discussion, Anita asserted, “Every business presents a value” and that leaders should embody and model the company's values, both for the benefit of their employees and their external stakeholders. Likewise, leaders need to be steadfast in living by their own set of values. Both Anita and Monica have extensive experience with elevating their voices and exercising independence, even when it went against the grain to do so.
Anita’s accusations about sexual harassment brought the issues of race and gender politics to the fore, sparking a necessary debate about women’s unequal representation in the political sphere at a time when these issues were not openly discussed and when the Senate was 98% male. Similarly, Monica has been called upon to oversee three major leadership transitions at companies for which she serves on the board. Throughout this turmoil, she remained immune from groupthink and held fast to her own convictions, regardless of how they did or did not cohere with the consensus of the rest of the board.
Inevitably, leadership is not a noun it’s a verb. To lead deeply is to have the conviction about your values and bring your whole self to work. To lead deeply is to engage and empathize, not command and control. And to lead deeply is to also expect the unexpected: While Anita described an impressive list of aspirations that guided her professional career, she joked that, “Testifying before a Senate Subcommittee was never on my bucket list, especially for a position for which I was not up for nomination.”
At the close of the session, Anita mused that she hopes that one day, organizations like Toigo, who advocate on behalf of female leadership, might no longer need to exist. But we are far from achieving gender parity. In the meantime, we men and women alike can internalize valuable lessons about tenacity, adaptability and candor. These qualities, which we uncovered as feminine in our research, are available to anyone and sorely needed to lead in the modern world.