How Do Women Lead?

04/2/10 | Linda Lambert & Mary Gardner | 0 Comments

Mary Gardner Linda Lambert
Linda Lambert & Mary Gardner





How do women lead? We have been studying this question for the past 20 years.

Our definition of leadership transcends position, role and hierarchy. We have found that leadership is a form of learning done in community -- together. That definition leads naturally to the following assumptions:

  • All of us have the right, capacity and responsibility to be a leader.
  • All of us are capable of becoming transforming women, and therefore, of becoming consummate leaders.
  • The best leaders are those individuals who have attained a certain level of integration, as outlined below.

We have learned that women who lead share 6 common themes:

  1. They commit to values.
  2. They are conscious of their evolving selves.
  3. They invoke passion and courage.
  4. They arouse the imagination.
  5. They create community.
  6. They mentor the next generation.

We have found a growing consensus that women possess inner resources that make them exceptional leaders: a brain hardwired for relating, empathy, and collaboration; a temperament enculturated to care and cooperate; a capacity to multi-task while holding firm to values; a powerful tendency toward community; and unique experiences with struggles and challenges.

You may ask: Aren’t there men who possess these resources as well?  We believe that -- because of our histories, culture, neurobiology and psychology -- women face different struggles and therefore develop different skills and qualities.

So how do women negotiate paths toward leadership?  We have developed a framework of leadership connecting four perspectives or stages of growth with the six themes derived from our studies. The result is a powerful matrix that can guide women as they make their way toward leadership. 

The four perspectives are

  1. The Denied Self, a time before our voices are discovered
  2. The Nascent Self, a time of devotion to organizational success, behaving like men (or at least how men are perceived!)
  3. The Emergent Self, when women become conscious of the shortcomings of earlier behaviors, separate themselves from cultural imperatives, and devote themselves to their own passions
  4. The Integrated Self, the mature connection of inner and outer voices.  These “selves” experience and negotiate the six themes described above.

As we did our research, we asked ourselves several searching questions: What are the skills, understandings and strategies essential to women’s ways of leading? Who are the women to watch? And, what does the future hold?  This research has been turned into our recently published book, Women’s Ways of Leading, which sets forth provocative possibilities for a world led equally by enlightened women and men. Wherever you find yourselves in your own journey toward leadership, this book will surprise, challenge and guide you on that voyage. 

Find details and ordering information at and more extensive information, a blog, and book discussion guide at

Linda Lambert is an author of both fiction and non-fiction.   A former social worker, school principal and university professor, Lambert is the president of Lambert Leadership Development, The Sea Ranch, California. She also worked to set up community schools for girls in Egypt. She is now writing a trilogy of historical novels; Cairo Diary: an Egyptian fable was released in March, 2010.

Mary Gardner is the former superintendent of the Saratoga, California, school district, a visiting practitioner at Harvard University, and a professor of educational leadership. She consults with non-profit organizations and has served on five boards of directors.

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