You know how sometimes you go into a bookstore and you just feel like your wallet is ready to jump out of your purse or pocket? You just have that sense that you’re going to be spending a lot of money and there’s not a darned thing you can do about it. Such was my sad state a while back when I went into Barnes & Noble. All of those shiny books were just yelling and saying, “Oh me! Me!” Kind of like Donkey from Shrek. As it happened, however, fate was being kind to me. It was on that trip that I picked up a book called How Remarkable Women Lead, by Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston.
Now, I have to say that this is pretty much the opposite of any kind of book I read. I only experienced The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People last year, to show you how far behind the times I am. I don’t really cotton to a lot of the “chicken soup for the soul” kind of stuff. My problem has always been that I can see the formulas and know the answers you’re *supposed* to give to those soul searching questions. You know, like, “Have you ever wanted to skydive?” “No, I guess I’m afraid to live life.” It all has seemed very formulaic to me and anyway, real life will always find new ways to test you.
This book, however, was different.
What it is
The actual full title of the book is The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life: How Remarkable Women Lead. The book is based on five years of exhaustive interviews that the authors conducted with successful women all around the world. As they worked on these interviews and started looking for commonalities, they came upon a few things that a lot of these successful women had in common. Slowly, a formula for success started to develop out of these interviews. The authors call this “Centered Leadership,” and it is based on the following:
Meaning – The women who were interviewed all were extremely passionate about their work and felt that what they were doing was really important. They were fulfilled by it.
Framing – Most of the women who were interviewed tended to be optimistic. That doesn’t mean they were out of touch with reality, but it meant that they were able to take their thoughts and frame them so that they could be more productive.
Connecting – None of the women claimed to be self-made. Many referenced support given early on by parents and teachers. Many had mentors and friends and co-workers and peers who helped them along.
Engaging – No, not the social media buzzword! Engaging in this case means making your own luck or taking control of your life.
Energizing – Take time to feed your soul. If you find yourself working 24/7, you’re going to run into problems.
What I liked about this book
There were a few overriding concepts that I found particularly powerful in this book.
1. Women should not be afraid to network with a purpose – oddly I just wrote a post recently about the phenomenon of the “social media climber” and how I just wanted to get to know people, and if our paths crossed, hey, great! Well, apparently a lot of women approach other people with that sort of thought process. According to the authors, men tend to create more relationships but less deep ones, so the idea of networking doesn’t seem so icky. An idea I really liked from this section was to create a “Board of Directors” that you could turn to for different areas of your life. Are you connected to a person who can help you reach that goal? If not, why not?
2. Don’t be afraid to speak up – the authors deal with the fact that women are often in no-win situations. If we speak up, we’re too aggressive. If we’re quiet we’re too weak. Well, the advice is to go ahead and speak up, but do so with confidence. If you have to listen for awhile before you can make a really good contribution, that’s okay. But if you have something important to say, say it, and stand up for yourself.
3. Succeeding at work doesn’t mean giving up your family – So often, the payment gap is explained with the argument that “Women leave the workplace to have babies.” Many of the women interviewed had husbands and kids to juggle, but rather than treating that as a huge obstacle, these women talk about how going home to their families after a super stressful day is part of the energizing process. Some of the women set aside specific family times where no one can work from interrupt them. If expectations are established early on, these sorts of balancing acts are entirely achievable.
This book is by no stretch a “Men stink” kind of book. Many of the women note that it was a male CEO or VP who reached out to mentor them or who stuck out his neck for them. Indeed, a lot of the advice would be just as useful for men. It’s not about gender, when you come right down to it. It’s about how to succeed without shredding your life.
I highly recommend this book. If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/45705704@N00/3232322350/ via Creative Commons