14 Leaderful Women


By Dr. Kathy DesRoches

Joe Raelin’s book, Creating Leaderful Organizations is the cornerstone text of the MS in Leadership Program at Granite State College. Leaderful is a term coined by Raelin. One faculty member in the Leadership program described Raelin as a servant leader. Servant leadership is a more widely known leadership style than Leaderful. Raelin’s book aptly captures four elements of leaderful however when we look at the text in the contemporary sense one can’t help but notice the lack of female examples. The purpose of this chapter is to provide examples of female leadership for Raelin’s work.

One barrier to women in leadership is that “women’s leadership is about redefinition, while men’s leadership has been about maintaining the status quo,” (Tarr-Whelan, 2009, p. 9). Women’s approach to leadership is most often seen through the lens of the male leadership, as men are traditionally viewed as leader. Knowing that leadership is thought of as a male quality, the following information from Mendez & Busenbark is interesting. “Recent findings bring attention to the role of context in leadership gender inequalities. Whereas effective leaders are often characterized in masculine terms, women leaders appear to be appointed more often than men to leadership positions when in situations of crisis, a phenomenon that has been termed the glass cliff,” (Mendez & Busenbark, 2015, p. 4). This is explained by the notion that women perform better under pressure and are more willing to “take one for the team” (Mendez & Busenbark, 2015, p. 4).

This chapter attempts to share examples of women in the role of leaders without comparison to men. “Research consistently shows that when women lead side by side with men…more skill sets are used, and more out-of-the-box thinking occurs from both genders” (Tarr-Whelan, 2009, p. xiii). In this chapter we will demonstrate the leaderful approach that female leaders bring to the workplace.

Kathy L. DesRoches, Ed.D.

Status of women in leadership

By Kyle Somma

Women make up over 50 percent of the United States population (United States Census Bureau, 2018) however, it was not until 240 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence that this country had the first female win a presidential party nomination (Collinson, 2016). This was 94 years after women won the right to vote in 1920 when the 19th Amendment was signed (Henderson, 2016). Hillary Clinton said of her campaign “This campaign is about making sure there are no ceilings, no limits on any of us and this is our moment to come together” (Henderson, 2016). However, years after her historic nomination, gender inequalities remain a barrier for women in leadership positions in the United States.

According to Catalyst, women make up 44.7 percent of the overall Standard & Poor’s 500 labor force in the United States (2019). Within that labor force only 36.9 percent of women are first or mid-level officials and managers, 26.5 percent are executive- and senior-level officials and managers (Catalyst, 2019). Additionally, only 21.2 percent of board seats are held by women, and women make up only five percent of CEOs (Catalyst, 2019).

There are a great number of studies regarding gender inequality and the ways that women are employed. In a 2018 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of men surveyed and 62 percent of women surveyed believed that “gender discrimination is a major reason why there aren’t more women in top executive business positions” (Women and Leadership 2018, 2018, p. 3). Maybe this is due to male leadership lens. In a 2013 study by the Women’s Media Center, it was theorized that it will take until 2085 for women to reach equality with men in key leadership roles in the United States (Klos, 2013, p. 4).

It is clear that there are persistent gender disparities in leadership careers that rank among the greatest influencers in American society. Despite these disparities, Pew Research Center found that the majority of Americans want to see more women in positions of leadership (2018, p. 17). Most people surveyed believe that there should be equal numbers of women in leadership positions as men (Pew Research Center, 2018, p. 19). Yet in that same study, Americans are divided on whether there will ever be gender parity in corporate leadership positions (Pew Research Center, 2018, p. 27).

In the study by the Pew Research Center, a question was posed regarding the qualities and competencies required for effective leadership. Women scored higher than males in compassion, empathy, compromise, honesty, ethical as well as serving as a role model for children, maintaining a tone of civility and respect, and standing up for what their values (Pew Research Center, 2018, p. 12). These traits are key components in leaderful leadership practice. Leaderful leadership is a transformative approach to leadership that abolishes the conventional tenants of leadership and replaces them with leadership that is concurrent, collective, collaborative and compassionate (Raelin, 2003, p.14).

In a 1999 study of corruption and women in government, the researchers concluded, “higher rates of female participation in government are associated with lower levels of corruption” (Dollar, Fisman, & Gatti, 1999, p. 6). Globally women’s economic participation and control over productive assets has shown to speed up development, assist in overcoming poverty, reduce inequalities and improve the health and education of children (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2010, p. 5). Additionally, women invest more of their earnings into their communities (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2010, p. 5) then men. Increasing the participation of women in leadership positions will have a direct effect on policy as well as the economy.

According to Raelin “Leadership as we know it has to change if we are to prosper in our twenty-first –century organizations and communities” (2003, p. 241). Women are breaking through the glass ceiling and transforming the traditional idea of a leader. The historically masculine terms associated with a leader such as charismatic, selfish, strong-willed, and competitive are being replaced with the leaderful (feminine traits) qualities of empathy, honesty and compassion.

Kyle M. Somma Status of Women in Leadership, June 2019

Women in Concurrent Leadership

Emily Bolduc-Fabian

Concurrent leadership is the foundation to a ‘leaderful practice.’ Concurrent leadership suggests the idea of not one individual as a leader but all team members acting leaderful (Raelin, 2003). Concurrent leaders share their powers among each other, allowing one another to each act as a leader (Raelin, 2003). One may also think of this as a shared leadership model. Each member in the team has their own responsibility and is more proficient in their area of expertise then their teammate who handles a separate function (Raelin, 2003). This in return governs power situationally to individuals within their own job duties (Raelin, 2003). Given the diverse operations, there is not one leader who performs a variety of operations but multiple leaders who function separately and come together to foster a powerful concurrent team (Raelin, 2003).

Women leaders have come a long way, from the early 1900’s when they could not vote, to the millennial generation that strives for diversity and equality in the workplace (O’Connor, 2010). Women have had overcome multiple obstacles to be accepted within the workforce (O’Connor, 2010). As stated in a Forbes article on the topic of women supporting other women in the workforce, when women attempt to rise into leadership roles face cultural and systemic hurdles that make it harder for them to advance, sometimes due to unconscious bias (Zalis, 2019). This is particularly true given that the male model of leadership has been the default for centuries (or the lens of leadership). Once biases, stereotypes and preconceptions of women are put aside, others see that women have proven to bring positive contributes to any team. Women bring different skills and traits to those of men, which in return creates a more functional concurrent leadership than with men alone (O’Connor, 2010).

In concurrent leadership, nominal leaders struggle with the concept of sharing leadership within the team (Raelin, 2003). This model can be a threat to the leaders in that individual members may be seen to have stronger leadership qualities then the nominal leader (Raelin, 2003). This factor ties in with the development of women leaders, as not so long ago, the idea of women as equal leaders to men was not acceptable to much of the population. “Most women share critical values and visions that, on balance, diverged from those of me…they include a preference for collaboration” (Tarr-Whelan, 2009, p. 6) and as written earlier, women are asked to lead during difficult times. Though this concept was not easily accepted, women thrive in their leadership role as their qualities bring a differing success to leadership as the qualities we typically think of as male.

Although concurrent leadership can be described as, the sharing of power between all team members, while displaying leadership at the same time but in different roles (Raelin, 2003). The nominal leader needs to help develop the knowledge and skills of their team members (Raelin, 2003). This may take time and patience, concurrent leadership may describe the individual members as having the power of their positions but that does not take the load of the task away from the nominal leader (Raelin, 2003). The nominal leader will need to step in situations help or advice is required (Raelin, 2003). Once individual members are confident on their own, the nominal leader will direct their expertise elsewhere to continue the growth of the team’s concurrent leadership (Raelin, 2003).

Shared leadership depends on collaboration and teamwork, which could result in a female advantage, but this advantage is not realized (Mendez & Busenbark, 2015, p. 6). Generally speaking, women prefer to develop relationships with their followers in which their followers feel comfortable to be able to rely on their leader for advice, knowledge and direction when needed (Boundless, n.d.). Softer tactics foster a strong concurrent leadership in that women strive to ensure their team members are efficient within their positions before expecting them to act as leaders on their own (Boundless, n.d.). Utilizing softer tactics to form relationships with each team member is beneficial.

Brene Brown, a well-known author, storyteller, and research professor at the University of Houston, has spent the last two decades researching and teaching concepts surrounding leadership (Ramirez, 2016). Her research goals are to help growing professionals advance within their careers, by overcoming their fears related to: courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy (Ramirez, 2016). Through her research and teachings, she has shown herself to be a leader who strives to help others work through challenging issues while providing motivation and encouragement (Raelin, 2003). Brown practices concurrent leadership and advises, leaders need to “have a shared understanding of all of the elements of a team so no single person is the connective tissue,” (Brown, 2018, p. 54). Sharing the understanding of the team and the needs of members and goals is concurrent leadership in its purist form.

Once biases, stereotypes and preconceptions are set aside, women will be recognized as leaders but not in respect to the male model. When considering the strengths and qualities of women, we recognize their concurrent leadership style due to their softer tactics to develop relationships with their followers in which recognizes the expertise and contributions each individual offers (Sources of Power, n.d.). Given their unique attributes, women facilitate leadership among all team members, in which allows all members to act as a leader in their roles.

Emily Bolduc-Fabian, Women in concurrent leadership, June 8, 2019

Collective leadership

Joanna Bailey

In this section, I will discuss three aspects of collective leadership: stewardship, leader as learner, and meaning makers. These areas foster collective leadership and contribute to a leaderful practice.

Raelin (2003) describes stewardship as a community partnership. Stewardship relies on mutual goals, a mutual purpose, where everyone is responsible for their own work and can say no to any assignments, everyone is responsible for the community of work, and people are respectful and act with integrity towards other members of the group (Raelin, 2003, p117).

On June 15, 2019 Joe Raelin tweeted “Who would like to work with this #leaderful chief executive?” (Raelin J. , 2019). His tweet referred to Mary Alread, the former CEO of The Committee for Gippsland in Australia and her collective leadership style. “Aldred says leadership is changing as society demands more of organizations, and values among the workforce shift. Changing expectations mean empathy and understanding will better serve organizations and their staff,” (Houego, 2019). She goes onto say, “the way I try to engage my team is very much more at a level where everybody, no matter their role, is encouraged to contribute ideas,” (Houego, 2019).

Team sports are an example of effective stewardship: team members work collectively and, even though there are different positions within the team, if someone is able to score they do. The American women’s soccer team has had significant success over the years and were the champions of the world cup in 1999. At the time of this writing, they are competing in the world cup, which is being held in France this year (2019). The American team consists of 23 women, of which there are three co-captains. In their match against Thailand on June 11, 2019, five players scored 13 goals, which illustrates the collective philosophy of the team. While everyone has their assigned playing positions, the team plays as one cohesive and collective unit. The captains are the designated leaders but, as with any collective group, they will put aside their individual needs and title for the success of the entire team mission.

One view of collective leadership is to promote learning for the entire organization by the creation of a secure environment where openness and vulnerability are encouraged. There are many benefits of this leadership style, which include a team superseding their individual perspective, working collectively for the greater good of the team, and success. Raelin also talks about the leader as a learner in collective leadership (Raelin, 2003). There is a vulnerability to leaders who are willing to face their own lack of knowledge and the potential failing of their ideas (Raelin, 2003). However, the leader with all the answers can be detrimental to team success because of their inability to swallow their pride as they do not want to be seen as weak or uncertain. Sheryl Sandberg joined the now giant social media company, Facebook in 2008, when the company was in significant debt (Rosoff, 2016). As the business and concept was new, there wasn’t a rule book, vision statement, or a template to follow so, as a newly appointed leader, Sandberg was “learner as a leader” during this innovative time. When asked what advice she would give to someone in a leadership position she responded “Ask for feedback – and take it well. Even when you’re in positions of leadership, it’s important to listen to feedback and use it to do better. People who do this will keep learning and growing. It also builds great trust within your teams,” (Sahadi, 2018). Under Sandberg’s leadership, Facebook has seen exponential growth with profits in the billions.

The final component of collective leadership is meaning maker. Raelin states that “To make meaning one has to merely help the group make sense of what people do when they work together” (Raelin, 2003, p. 138). Michelle Obama is an example of a meaning maker in the way she put her individual needs to one side to support her husband during his presidency. With two young daughters in the White House, Michelle was able to become an important leader for mothers, giving extra meaning to the collective team. She was influential in her healthy eating for children project because she was a role model for families (Lewis, 2018).

While it may appear, that Mrs. Obama has put her career aside for her husband, it was a team decision, with collective leadership and there were significant benefits both during and after their tenure. Obama became a role model, continued with her professional career, and was inspired to write a bestselling book about her life. Her focus may have temporarily changed during their White House years, but she brought meaning to the team dynamic.

Collective leadership relies on openness irrespective of position. Across the board, team members must have a sense of security in being open and vulnerability, which includes the leader.

Joanna Bailey, Collective Leadership, June 8, 2019

Women as Collaborative Leaders

Jody Oliver

For decades, women have struggled to make their way into top leadership positions, but despite the barriers they face, they continue to attempt to level the playing field. One way to do this is by fostering a collaborative leadership style. “Collaborative leadership is characterized by shared vision and values, interdependence and shared responsibility, mutual respect, empathy and willingness to be vulnerable, ambiguity, effective communication, and synergy”  (Lewis, 2018). By embracing these fundamental qualities, women have an opportunity to offer the benefits of their diversity.

As an example, a 2014 Gallup study and a 2016 Catalyst study discovered that hiring diverse employee’s increases revenue because of improvements made in solving problems and workforce achievement (Elias, 2018). Land O’ Lakes CEO Beth Ford agrees and says “I think all diverse voices are critical. Leadership is a team sport. It’s about enabling and empowering the team to succeed” (2018, p. 4). Ford is one of 33 women Fortune 500 CEO’s (Connley, 2019).

Survey data collected from thousands of 360 evaluations revealed women leaders outranked men in the majority of leadership competencies including honesty and integrity, developing others, innovation, problem solving, and championing change (Zenger & Folkman, 2012). This information can be used by women to foster a collaborative environment and one’s own personal development as well as emphasize their exemplary leadership qualities.

Raelin (2003) explains that collaborative leaders insure key stake-holders are involved in cultivating and implementing organizational changes. “Hence, they become intrinsically motivated to see the change not only implemented but implemented successfully” (Raelin, 2003, p. 156). This is an area where women can excel by facilitating collaborative involvement during times of transition when people are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety.

Eileen Elias, M.Ed. used her forty years of leadership experience and research to collaborate with other acknowledge leaders and publish advice for emerging female leaders (2018). Their comprehensive list of recommendations includes building and sustaining a network of diverse colleagues, pursing a mentor who exemplifies the type of leader you want to be, and perhaps most importantly exude confidence in yourself (Elias, 2018).Her suggestions are meant to offer support and show us how “leaderful practice requires people to be engaged— to have the ability, motivation, and confidence to participate in leadership” (Raelin, 2003, p.74)

General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra makes it a point to offer her insights and expertise to young girls and women in an effort to inspire them achieve their personal and professional goals. Barra started her career with GM at the age of 18, where she was able to pursue higher education opportunities and eventually earned an MBA (Sahadi, 2018). Barra held several positions at GM before being named CEO in 2014, she became the first female to lead an automobile maker (Sahadi, 2018). Barra’s accomplishments include her innovative ideas and collaborative leadership style that developed after a disastrous safety issue that caused multiple injuries and deaths. Barra recalls, “I never want to put this behind us. I want to put this painful experience permanently in our collective memories” (Feloni, 2018, p. 7). In learning from prior mistakes, Barra worked diligently to rebuild trust, change company culture, and move GM forward in a positive direction. Subsequently, she promoted open lines of communication, offered transparency, and provided clear expectations (Feloni, 2018; Sahadi 2018), empowering employees to become vital members of the GM team

In sum, as women seek to land top leadership and management positions, their collaborative leadership style will help them to succeed. Collaborative leadership offers cross functional intelligence, constructive conflict, and well-balanced goals and decisions. Many women welcome diversity and create a work environment that is inviting to people of all ages, races, ethnicities, and genders. As CEO Barra advises, “You need the right people, the right culture, and the right strategy. To be truly great, your team must have diversity of thought and be willing to collaborate constructively” (Sahadi, 2018, p. 4). Finally, they have the advantage of cultivating a diverse professional network for future career development and success!

Jody Oliver, Women as Collaborative Leaders, June 25, 2019

Compassionate Leaders

Vanessa Koch

This paper explores women as compassionate leaders and their contributions to corporate leadership in the United States. A compassionate leader weighs all variables that make each person unique which effects how a person makes their decisions. Compassionate leaders “recognize the potential contribution of each member of the community, no matter what his or her position or status” (Raelin, 2003, p. 206).

Compassionate leaders create a positive and caring workplace culture, psychologist Emma Seppala, a researcher at Yale and Stanford Universities and author of “The Happiness Track,” said, “The result, research shows, is a workplace that is more productive, more creative, that has less turnover, and whose clients have better results. It leads to a better bottom line.” (Jagannathan, 2018, para. 1)

When compassion is present it benefits all facets of the workplace. Each employee is unique, have different backgrounds, have vastly different experiences in life and bring an array of values to the table.

Oprah is perceived by her admirers as a caring individual and as someone whose concern and compassion for others animate every personal, professional, and career decision she makes. Oprah cares, and her demonstration of this fact leads them to care about both others and themselves. In her leadership, Oprah has undeniably made care and compassion an industry. (Gini & Ronald, 2013)

Oprah recognizes other’s uniqueness which makes her strong leader because diversity among the employees is an asset to the organization. “With knowledge of each follower’s unique characteristics and interests, leaders then assist followers in achieving their potential” (Van Dierendock & Patterson, 2015). Each employee’s way of thinking and of problem solving bring different backgrounds to the organization.

The leader may recognize that there may be something deeper to the behavior and pursue methods to assist the employee. “Compassionate communities are characterized as endorsing a diversity of views, even those that do not conform to existing mental models and practices. In this way, compassion extends beyond one’s own culture or borders to those less privileged (Raelin, 2003, p. 208). Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors is a great example of recognizing this. Forbes ranks her at fourth of the most Powerful Women in 2018 (#4 Mary Barra, n.d.). Mary Barra recognizes the importance of treating the employees the same and has accomplished equal pay within General Motors. “True gender equality isn’t just about pay and the representation of women on boards, it’s a far more complex issue,” van Maasdijk said. “That is why our research looks at 19 different factors including benefits such as shared parental leave. We want to see a level playing field for every employee, not just women.” (Lareau, 2018, p. 14). “GM ranked No. 1 on the 2018 Global Report on Gender Equality. It was one of only two global businesses that have no gender pay gap” (Lareau, 2018, para. 14).

In the past few decades, women have made small advances in positions of leadership. As of May 16, 2019, 33 of the companies on the ranking of highest-grossing firms are led by female CEOs. To be sure, that sum represents a disproportionately small share of the group as a whole; just 6.6%. But it also marks a considerable jump from last year’s total of 24, or 4.8% (Zillman, 2019). Zillman states, “The increase has come as institutional investors—citing research on the business benefits of diverse leadership—have pushed for new blood in boardrooms” (2019, para. 8).

Women bring a different set of traits to leadership, thus the growth in women in leadership roles. “Of relevance to the global mindset framework, the current literature shows that women demonstrate specific features that are particularly important to three subdimensions of the global mindset in terms of self-efficacy: intercultural empathy, diplomacy, and passion for diversity” (Javiden, Bullough, & Dibble, 2016, p. 59). Women bring an array of essential qualities to the workplace. Women are empathic listeners, who value collaboration and teamwork while also acting as experts at building relationships, encouraging others to achieve their maximum potential. These qualities work well with the skills men bring to the workplace. (Elias, 2018, p. 176)

In closing, an organization that recognizes the importance of women in leadership and their strong traits will be better equipped and put their organization at an advantage point for success. Bringing the compassionate nature to organizations is helping woman to run more businesses than ever because it is a different approach to other styles.

Vanessa L. Koch, Compassionate Leaders, June 28, 2019


Dr. Kathy DesRoches

Female leaders become role models for others. Women are exposed to positive and negative role models every day (The power of role models, n.d.) and serve as a reference for whom we want to become (The power of role models, n.d.). Given that “relatable [female] role models will bring important future [female] scientists, mathematicians, technologists, engineers, innovators, and leaders into in the career pipeline” (Olsson & Sarah E Martiny, 2018) it is important to provide women in the Granite State College leadership program examples of successful female leaders using Raelin’s framework of Leaderful Organization. We did this so that, as leaders, we are not only using the lens of male leadership but recognizing there is another lens


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