One of my favorite books on women’s leadership style is The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work by Sally Helgesen and Julie Johnston (2010 Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco, CA). As they write in their Forward, “The Female Vision draws on the latest research (comparing women’s and men’s perceptions) to illustrate why what women and men see can be so different.” They go on to illustrate with very compelling stories what these differences are, why they matter, and how the inclusion of women’s vision and leadership is beneficial to an organization’s culture, mission, and sustainability.

Relevant for Non-Profit Leaders

Although the authors limited their research to women in the for-profit sector, the information is as relevant to women working in the non-profit sector. Recently, an article by Jim Rendon, a senior writer for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, quoted Anne Wallestad, CEO of BoardSource saying, “As a society, we are far from valuing women’s leadership and perspective as much as we value men’s. I think that there are probably some implicit biases at play in terms of whose leadership is [considered] most appropriate at those highest levels.”

Throughout the book, the central theme remains that although women have a seat at the table in corporate America and they participate with the “how’s and the what’s—the tactics, the implementation—but are less often in the position to decide the why’s and the if’s.” What seems to be lacking is for women to be included in the big discussions—the strategic planning—where women’s intuitive insight, virtues, and unique relationship-building traits add value and vision. There is no doubt that socialization, cooperation, communicating and empathy are just a few of the female strengths necessary to succeed in the 21st century.

Solutions For Women To Reach Full Potential

While most books only identify the problem, the joy of this book is that the authors present a series of solutions—reasonable and doable. Solutions that can help women reach their full creative and collaborative potential in a multi-dimensional world. Part of the solution is for women to take the initiative for change. The advice is to “develop a story that explains what you notice, why it matters, and what it can mean for the people in your company in the years ahead.” And further to “frame your vision in the language of benefit…and enlist allies to support your view.”

If there is one overall lesson from reading The Female Vision it is that “organizations must learn to value diversity, ways of knowing, encourage mindfulness, support webs of inclusion and respect the power of empathy.” This is certainly not only a formula for successful leadership but also a way for women in for-profit and non-profit leadership to make the world a better place for all.