Published in Harvard Business Review
Most legendary tales that serve as guides for leadership are male oriented. Women and their mentors need to find or create, and then use, success stories that feature the feminine archetype. Without that guidance, women either will fail to rise to leadership roles at all or will ascend at the expense of the feminine, the essence of their strength.
Consider the heroine of The Wizard of Oz, for example. Dorothy is an emotionally connected transformational leader: She discovers the hidden talents of the scarecrow, the tin man, and the lion, and then encourages and challenges them to draw on their own potential. As a result, the characters become better versions of themselves; the team overcomes the obstacles along the way; and, ultimately, they all realize their destinies. Under Dorothy’s leadership, they create a vision together in which each member benefits from and contributes to the overall journey.
Dorothy, for her own part, spends most of the time looking for a wizard who she believes has the power to send her home. But when she finds him, he can offer nothing extraordinary. It is Glinda, a feminine presence, who shows Dorothy that she can find everything she needs within herself. Glinda helps Dorothy the same way Dorothy helped the scarecrow, the tin man, and the lion—by identifying and revealing their internal strengths. Like Dorothy, women on the leadership journey already have what they need to succeed. And, like Glinda, mentors should help them access and integrate the feminine into leadership practices.
Eagly and Carli respond: We welcome these thoughtful responses to our article. Anne Perschel is right in recognizing the importance of female role models—from myths, stories, and real life. Feminine archetypes of success can inspire women and help them navigate the labyrinth.