I was fortunate to attend Mary Stier’s presentation at Central on Dec. 6 in the Cox-Snow Auditorium. Coming from an education advisory meeting, I crept into the auditorium after the formal introductions had been made. I took my seat as Mary Stier began talking about her new book, Lady Leader: 10 Ways to Play in Big Boy Business. My first impressions were of a poised, elegantly dressed speaker, who addressed her audience with clarity, sharing vignettes from her 25 years of personal experience in corporate management. Her impressive career includes time as president and publisher of the Des Moines Register and one of the top executives of Gannett Company, Inc. Her message was motivational and explicitly aimed to inspire women to believe in themselves, overcome their fears and recognize their unique managerial qualities.
The presentation proved to be informative and interesting, focusing on gender differences in how women manage their careers, as identified through Stier’s personal life-defining scenarios. Like many in the audience, I decided to learn more and have subsequently read her book. The personal inscription—“Alida, Lead from the heart”—demonstrates her compassion, which is reflected in the text. She refers to her three defining Cs – communication, collaboration and compassion, suggesting women do not need to abandon their core values to succeed in their careers. They can be true to themselves and still rise to executive positions in corporate America. Stier describes a new leadership model designed to respond to today’s media-driven, instant-communication world. It is an interrelated, interactive circular communication system encompassing multiple players. In this model, women are effective collaborators, communicating with compassion, multitasking and synthesizing information. They have the ability to define and give clear organizational directions.
The text cites a gender-related characteristic: Women will wait to be asked rather than taking the initial steps to further their own careers. Stier encourages women to write their own mission statements, clarify personal values and refer to these when making life-changing decisions. She presents descriptive scenarios, followed by a lesson to be learned from each situation. She discusses strategies for women to negotiate the often male-dominated board room and the upper echelons of corporate management. Each chapter provides inspiration and practical lessons learned during her successful career. Fear of taking the next step and emotional considerations can hold women back, even though they have been identified for promotion for their managerial skills and are key players in an organization. Stier describes how she addressed her multiple roles as an executive, wife and mother. She suggests thinking of these roles as a circle divided into proportional segments. By examining the proportions assigned to each, it is possible to honestly analyze and evaluate how to find a balance between work and personal commitments. Organizational skills are required to meet the expectation of traveling or working long or unsociable hours. Successful women have to put in place a reliable and comprehensive team to provide for child care and education, with support from family members and business colleagues.
Lady Leader is a modern book for modern business women, who care about their families, colleagues, employees, health issues, values and beliefs. Stier encourages women not to be deterred, to strive for success as leaders with managerial careers. The book is concise and is written to motivate women of all ages. In 10 chapters, Stier guides women to understand gender differences so that they can successfully advance without self-doubt; to find ways to seek out and become mentors; to develop an audible organizational voice; to communicate effectively with strong verbs. She suggests reducing emails to male colleagues to one clear message rather than writing lengthy justification explanations, defusing tensions with humor and dressing stylishly and appropriately for success. Furthermore, she encourages women to be comfortable competing, seeking out and retaining power in an organization.
I will refer to this book as a guide for my personal leadership style and for communication with my colleagues. As a professor in a liberal arts college, I work to inspire both female and male students to realize their potential, defining and meeting academic and lifelong goals. Lady Leader is a valuable resource for both women and men, presenting ideas to motivate women and recognizing their institutional strengths and organizational gender differences. In my experience, success and advancement in an organization cannot be achieved without appropriate knowledge, hard work and people skills. All who strive for success therefore need to develop their ability to collaborate, communicate and show compassion, as these are characteristics of responsible global leaders in dynamic, changing, media-focused, global organizations.
Have you read Lady Leader? What did you think about the book?