Leadership Expert Frances Hesselbein: A Woman for All Seasons
International Women’s Day belongs to all gutsy individuals who said, “ It will begin with me.”
The woman sitting across from me had the aura of a pioneer. In my mind’s eye I saw her chopping wood, tending fires, hauling water from a nearby stream.
Yet, here she was in a tailored suit handing me a cup of green tea and answering my questions about the photographs on the wall of her tasteful Park Avenue office.
Without false humility or blinding ego she talked about being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House. The medal, America’s highest civilian honor; was awarded in 1998 recognizing her leadership as Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scouts from 1976 to 1990 and as Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the Peter Drucker Foundation in 1990.
Talking with her was like having a special lunch with a favorite teacher. Her conversation was direct and deep. No evasion, no chest thumping and, what a relief, no platitudes.
Frances Hesselbein is a national treasure (although I’m sure her eyebrows would raise at such a thought). Her diminutive frame belies the power punch behind her genteel manner. We did not spend much time talking about awards and recognition. They were what appeared while she was busy doing her daily work.
We went right to the core of the subject “How do we develop quality leaders in an era so lacking in role models?”
In her no nonsense manner she hit the nail with one blunt swing of the hammer, “Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do. We are too busy teaching a cookbook “how to” version with limited emphasis on the quality and character of the leader- for that is what truly determines lasting results.
Frances looks through a long lens. She is legacy based rather than drawn to the glitter of short term results. Just as the acorn holds the knowledge of the oak tree, Frances at the helm of the Girl Scouts held the vision of little girls growing into competent, compassionate women. That vision turned the Girl Scouts from an organization in decline (with the Boy Scouts of America eager to take the reins and offer membership to girls), into a strong organization creating an environment for girls to explore their uniqueness.Continued on the next page