THE BLOG
01/02/2013 11:21 am ET Updated Mar 04, 2013

Answering the Call: Women in Leadership Stepping Up and Stepping Out

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age
of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of
belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it
was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the
winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing
before us."

Charles Dickens

Written over 150 years ago, these first lines of A Tale of Two Cities ring truer than ever.
As we look around us today, it's hard not to see that this spectacular, beautiful world we
inhabit is on fire.

A Question and an Answer

The critical question is: What is the key to generating the transformation we so
desperately need?

The answer is both incredibly simple (in that it can be summed up in one word), and
incredibly complex (in that everything associated with that word must be re-examined
and re-defined). What is required is nothing short of a complete paradigm shift around
one word: leadership.

I'm talking about leadership across the board; in our political systems, in business, in
religious organizations, not-for-profits, schools, communities and in our families.

And leadership across the spectrum; we can no longer look to a small, elite group of
individuals who have been granted (or have taken) positions of authority. The capacity,
and the responsibility, for leadership lies in each and every one of us, whatever our
position in a particular organizational system. The current state of affairs demands that
we each step up, step out, and answer the call.

Answering the Call

The expression "answering the call" comes from Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey,
a brilliant depiction of a timeless, universal myth that Campbell describes as follows:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of
supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a
decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious
adventure with the power to bestow boons on humankind.

In many ways, humanity itself is on a monumental Hero's Journey, and we find
ourselves poised for the decisive battle. As a race of beings we have journeyed through
many trials, and we stand at the brink. As our world becomes increasingly
interconnected, volatile and complex, we must find a way to slay the dragon of our own
separateness and lay the foundation for the next phase of human evolution, or perish.

The (Not-So) Secret Weapon

The weapon we need is leadership, the heroes we need to wield it: women. We need
feminine power and compassion to shift the traditional command and control model of
leadership, and we need women to stand shoulder to shoulder with men in every aspect
of leadership to allow a new paradigm to emerge; a paradigm that is based on
consciousness and connection.

We need leadership on purpose; leadership that arises from a deep awareness of
ourselves, and of our relationship to each other and to our world; leadership that is
integrated; that balances feminine and masculine, the "who we are" and "what we do";
leadership that is grounded in a profound sense of personal responsibility; leadership
that creates alignment and inspires action.

And women have what it takes. We know this intuitively and anecdotally from our
experience in the world, and we know this from the data. Over the past decade women
were awarded 58 percent of all bachelor's degrees, 60 percent of all master's degrees and 52 percent of all
doctorates.

In addition, there are numerous studies that reveal women excel in a host of the
leadership strengths we need to support an evolving consciousness, including integrity,
collaboration, creativity, problem solving, inspiration, development (of self and others),
communication, decision making, initiation and results. It all adds up.

Asking For Help

One of the steps Joseph Campbell outlined in The Hero's Journey is "Allies and
Enemies." For our beloved Dorothy, from The Wizard of Oz, she sought support from
the Scarecrow (brains), the Tin Man (heart) and the Lion (courage), each representing a
critical piece of herself she had to integrate in order to complete her journey.

As women, we know we are potentially so much more when we don't try to go it alone.
We know it takes a village. In fact one of the brilliant tactics women bring to the
leadership table is the confidence and strength to ask for help.

I believe in expanding the scope of the relationship between hero and allies to include
the allies in each step of the journey; from hearing and answering the call, to stepping
off into the unknown; from the valley of trials, to the ordeal of death and rebirth, and
through to the return, as the hero brings new insight and knowledge back to the known
world. It is this journey that I strive to support, as women step out into leadership roles
of all kinds.

And it is in the spirit of coming full circle that part of my mission is to lean into the final
words of A Tales of Two Cities, as I imagine myself looking back on my own hero's
journeys.

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far
better rest that I go to than I have ever known."