Annie. Role Models, Mentors and Heroes, Leaders and Leadership

posted August 28th, 2009 by Janet Graham - One Comment

Role Models, Mentors and Heroes

I asked Annie whether she had role models, mentors or heroes and she said she didn’t have any female role models or mentors because there weren’t any.  She said there were certainly men who filled these roles.  She said these were the men who although quite successful continued to be kind and generous with their time and supportive of her and not just because she was a woman but because they were just decent human beings who had become successful. She says for her that was the role model that she was looking to become, a compassionate person, hopefully successful, but that’s what she wanted to look like.

I asked Annie whether she saw herself as that, a role model, a mentor or someone’s hero.  She said she hoped she was and she said in fact, there have been a couple of women who have told her that she has been a role model and that they have looked to her for guidance and that she has helped them.  She says she has mentored a lot of women, either formally or informally and continues to do that today. She often goes and speaks to women’s groups. She says her daughter “actually gave me a compliment”.  In Annie’s words: “She told me that when I was commuting to Toronto, I would leave on the Sunday night and Monday morning she’d get up and spray my perfume in my room so that she could feel my presence at home. I used to feel so guilty and I know that both my kids probably resented the time I was away.  However, my daughter said to me a few years back, you know mum, I want to be like you.  I want to have a career and I want to have a family and I want to be independent and be able to make my own way in the world and she said I appreciate you for being a role model for me because I think that’s the right thing to do”.

I loved Annie’s story about her daughter spraying the perfume in her room and I explored it a little more with her. She said her daughter sprayed the perfume in her room because when Annie was home and getting ready in the morning her daughter would come into her room and she’d sit there and talk to Annie or when she was little she’d try her makeup on and walk around in her high heels. Annie said when she would come home at night she would come in the front door and she would leave her high heels and her briefcase at the front door and go into the kitchen and start doing whatever and the next thing she knew her daughter would come tottering in on her high heels with her “booscase” as she used to call it.  And when I asked about her daughter she said: “She’s doing really well. So you know when I look at my kids and I think… both my kids because I have a son and a daughter… they’re great kids, and so even though I used to feel all that guilt of being a working mum I think it was the right thing to do.  I think it was good role modelling for them”.

Leaders and Leadership

I asked Annie to think of the people she considers to be leaders and the qualities she associates with them and the impact they have on the people around them.  She said: “One element of great leadership I think is communication and I don’t mean just the ability to talk yourself but the ability to listen and to be able to take what you hear and understand where others are coming from.  You have to be decisive but I think if you’re informing your decisions with other people’s views and perspectives and they believe that, they will follow you.  They might not always agree with the direction you take but they will follow you because they believe they have been heard and then they come to believe where you’re going.  I think good leaders are trustworthy.  I think good leaders have integrity and that shines through and that’s why people follow them because they trust them, they believe they’re compassionate and that they will always back the best interests of all stakeholders and not just their own. Sometimes good leaders do things that perhaps they don’t even believe in but they do it because they believe it’s the right thing to do and they compel people to want to be a part of their team because of their actions.  I think good leaders don’t hesitate to show compassion when they should and I think that’s inspiring. I think all of those things make a great leader. I think if I look at how Obama is operating he may trip and stumble but I’m finding it inspiring the way he’s so inclusive and the way his integrity is compelling people who otherwise wouldn’t have come to the table to talk or discuss issues to actually do that and yet he doesn’t hesitate to say the tough things or take a tough stance.  I don’t know if you saw his speech where he was talking about abortion and you know that’s not an easy thing for a President to tackle but the way he did it you know he’s not going to get everybody on side but he’s sure going to get a lot of people at the table talking about these things.  I think he’s a terrific leader”.

And I asked Annie to think of the people she doesn’t consider to be leaders and their qualities and the impact they have on people. And she said: “Oh man, they can be very destructive.  I mean, if you look at some of the things that have happened globally from an economic or political perspective where you’ve had bad leadership, it’s around  people who are selfish, self-centred and greedy who have no integrity and no compassion.  They’re just in it for themselves or for the short-term; they don’t listen and they don’t respect other people’s views.  I mean they are the total opposite of the great leader at the extreme. Frankly, I’ve always been of the view and I think it’s been proven in studies, that leaders that make it because they mimic some of the real qualities of leadership who don’t actually have them are psychopaths and I’ve seen that and I’ve worked for some, but they’re so good at copying and conveying that they have these qualities that they rise to the top and then it can become very destructive, and a lot of these are men because a lot of leaders still are… or so-called leaders, senior people, senior politicians… are still men.  Yeah, they embody and represent just totally everything I could not be or want to be associated with”.

I asked Annie about the people she had had the greatest difficulty with and how she would characterize them and their impact on the people around them. She said the good thing she had come to realize about herself but probably a bit too late is that the people that she has had the most difficulty with are the men that she has worked for or with who reminded her of her father because that brings out behaviours in her that are not constructive to the relationship. She says with other people who aren’t like her father she could be more rational in a discussion or not dig her heels in or not do or say stupid things, however, with people who were like her father, she looks back and regrets some of the decisions she may have made or the conversations she may have had and it was simply and purely because all of a sudden she could see her father and she just was not going to go along.  She said: “So that’s when I think I’ve had the most difficulty or with women who are not supportive to other women”.

Best Advice for Young Women

I asked Annie about the best advice she had ever been given and what she would pass along to a young woman. And she said: “Well, I don’t know who said this originally but I’ve said it for a long time and I really believe it and I say it to young women: you can’t have it all at once.  Over the course of a life time, you can have a wonderful career, a wonderful family, great friendships (that you’re actually keeping up) and travel.  You can have it all but you can’t have it all at once and if you are going to have it all you’re going to have to make tough decisions and you’re going to have to make choices that are going to bite you and make you feel guilty and you’re going to have unhappy friends at certain points and you’re going to have unhappy kids and husbands at times and at times at work you’re not going to be great, but if you just don’t whip yourself with guilt, just take each day as it comes, make these decisions when you have to and sometimes you’re going to have to swallow hard when you make them, but it’s about choices… I wouldn’t go so far as to say sacrifices… but it’s about tough choices but you can have it all over a good long life”.

I asked Annie whether she would advise a young woman to establish alliances with other women. She said absolutely!!! She says she thinks she struggled for awhile to understand mentorship and the value of it, especially in the formal way in which organizations are doing it today and she is still of mixed views because she thinks when an individual is paired up with the wrong mentor it really isn’t a good situation but she thinks for young women to be able to reach out and have a network of female friends is amazingly helpful.  She think for young women to be mentored by the right female mentor is a wonderful thing and when she looks back she thinks, perhaps that would have been a really terrific experience.  She absolutely believes women should form alliances with other women because they’ve gone through it all; they’re the ones that have the babies, they’re the ones that have to cope at home, they’re the ones that have to look after elderly parents and try to manage a career.  She says if you have been through the experience you can reach out and help others with it and so she thinks it is important for young women to have female friends and mentors at work.

What Strikes Me?

The impact of our behaviour and choices on our children and the guilt we feel because of it

Self analysis contributes greatly to our understanding of ourselves and our behaviours towards other people and specific situations and the sooner it happens the better

Women should form alliances with women because they share many of the same experiences

You can have it all over a good long life although you may not be able to have it all at once

Great leaders demonstrate great compassion

Great leaders are great listeners; sometimes people simply need to know they have been heard

What Strikes You?

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One Response to “Annie. Role Models, Mentors and Heroes, Leaders and Leadership”

Comment from Sandy Graham
Time August 30, 2009 at 8:38 pm

Great leaders are great listeners; sometimes people just need to know they have been heard.

I believe in this philosophy and fully support it. When I was an Administrator in the Far North of Alberta we had a very progresive Superintendent who brought in School-Based-Management.

This project basically decentralizes the school district and each school becomes a district within itself. The maximum amount of government funds is turned over to the school and the teachers, parents and students then create the Mission for the school, prepare the goals to accomplish that Mission, then divvy up the budget and prioritize where the money should go.

It became a learning experience for everyone. The community was involved. The teachers felt they were being listened to and the students for once knew they were going to be involved in planning their next year.

In my 17 years being involved with SBM, in 5 different schools and a central office position I would say it was the best way to mentor people, to communicate with your community and to lead your young people. Everyone had a sense of being listened to.

Sandy Graham

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