Leadership The Eleanor Roosevelt Way

I recently finished reading Leadership The Roosevelt Way – Timeless Strategies from the First Lady of Courage by Senior Scholar Robin Gerber.

As the title indicates this book is about the life and stories of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, with a particular focus on her leadership abilities. As the author states in his introduction: “Eleanor Roosevelt holds an unassailable place as the most respected and well-known woman of the last century. In the year before her death in 1962, international polls repeatedly showed her to be the world’s most admired woman.”

The book is divided into 12 sections, each focusing on one aspect of ER’s leadership:

1) Learn from Your Past

2) Find Mentors and Advisers

3) Mothering: Training for Leadership

4) Learning the Hard Way

5) Find Your Leadership Passion

6) Your Leadership Your Way

7) Give Voice to Your Leadership

8) Face criticism with Courage

9) Keep Your Focus

10) Contacts, Networks, and Connections

11) Embrace Risk

12) Never Stop Learning

Inter-weaved into each chapter are numerous stories from ER’s life in which she has demonstrated leadership in these areas. As stated by the author: “If there are essential threads that can be pulled from Eleanor’s story of leadership, they are her adherence to her values, her keen assessment of people’s needs, and her ability to motivate those around her to take responsibility and work for change.”

What sets this book apart is the structure, the selection of supporting biographical elements and the summary of the key lessons at the end of each chapter. A must read Leadership book!

Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful:

1) “Eleanor came to believe that learning and growing, remaining curious, and being open to change were essential elements of leadership.”

2) “Eleanor exemplified leadership at its finest, but she achieved that status by starting with herself, looking inward with honesty and curiosity  This enabled her to change the world around her.”

3) “Remember that mentors can give you guidance professionally as well as socially and emotionally.”

4) “Organizational skills and leadership talents can be developed in the home as well as in the workplace.”

5) “What sets a leader apart is how he or she handles the lowest points, the darkest hours.”

6) “Your passion doesn’t have to be connected to humanitarian goals, but it must be deeply personal and important to you.”

7) “Finding your leadership passion will depend on clarifying your values. Values motivate great leadership, underpin the actions that you take to build your leadership, and lead to lasting and transforming change…Every act of leadership based on your mission builds you capacity for making change on a larger and more transforming scale.”

8) “Your leadership will be most effective if you stick to the mission of your organization…Stick to your principles and inspire others by acting on them. Demonstrate that you can be trusted and you will get the trust of those around you.”

9) Warren Bennis: “Leaders articulate and define what has previously remained implicit and unsaid; then they invent images, metaphors, and models that provide a focus for new attention.”

10) “Show your sincerity and passion as you communicate in both words and images. If you don’t have the conviction to support your idea no one else will either.”

11) “Distinguish between criticism that you value and can use versus criticism that is best ignored. Handle criticism with less emotions and more intelligence. Be open to constructive areas. Be strong in the face of unjust attacks.”

12) “Your job as a transforming leader is to develop a clear, strong vision, to be determined and persistent, and to build leadership in those around you. If you do, you’ll find that you can make great changes, achieve maximum success, and leave a lasting legacy as a transforming leader.”

13) “Use every avenue, every method, and every opportunity to advance your vision.”

14) “Recognize the give-and-take of networking. Look for ways you can help people meet their goals and assess how they can help you meet yours…Be a “connector” linking people in your network to each other.”

15) “Accept that you will never be able to plan for or control every contingency; such is the nature of risk…Practice the positive – in your mind, in your discussions, in your relationships, in your actions. The glass is always half full if you want it to be.”

16) “Be a leader who is a learner; be a learner who is a teacher; be a teacher who is a leader who motivates others to lead and learn.”


Omar Halabieh

Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way

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