Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets is one of those books that everyone in a leadership position should read through and then keep on their shelf for future reference. As O’Reilly says in the forward to her edited volume, she hopes that this book offers the “so, how?” of Sanburg’s famous Lean In. The book is filled with insights and anecdotes that will serve to aid many leaders of any sex.

I particularly enjoyed the book’s early focus on the issue of power. Women, the book says, frequently report discomfort with the idea of being in power, of having power and of power in general. It is perceived as a masculine concept and one over which they have no claim. The book disagrees, as would social science. Power is not limited to domination forces. Instead some theorists, Foucault in particular, speak of power as a mutual construct between leaders and followers. The leader truly has no power unless the followers agree to grant it to them, after all. There is complicity in that exchange.

Thus, a key step for a leader is to gain the trust of those they are leading so that power can be granted for key decisions and directions. O’Reilly and her contributors focus on this aspect acutely – women are culturally conditioned to be collaborators, to seek buy-in from peers and colleagues. This conditioning can be used to our advantage if we would only let it.

I think this understanding of power, leadership, control and direction is key and it is only one of the many key topics covered in the book. Enjoy with coffee for sure as you contemplate and absorb the points.


Further reading:


I received a copy of this book from my employer.