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Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way

Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way

Timeless Strategies from the First Lady of Courage

by Robin Gerber


“Women, whether subtly or vociferously, have always been a tremendous power in the destiny of the world”

- Eleanor Roosevelt


  • Decisiveness & bold action. Character built on firm values

  • Support for the leadership of others

  • UN delegate

  • She firmly believed and constantly advocated that women’s leadership was important in every sphere. She saw her life as a continual process of breaking down barriers and moving towards new and greater goals.Her strategy and her strength came through leadership and through refining her ideas about motivating others in the pursuit of mutual goals and passions.

  • She pushed ahead with projects that would make real change in people’s lives

  • She did radio broadcasts (podcasts) gave countless speeches and she never stopped promoting opportunities for women.

  • Eleanor came to belly that learning and growing, remaining curious, and being open to change were essential elements of leadership

  • Her ability to motivate those around her to take responsibility and work for change

  • Leadership is out change

  • Although many aspects of society must change for women to achieve true equality of opportunity, women can start my making personal change.

  • We can work to develop and exercise our leadership to achieve our individual visions of change

  • I hope it will encourage you to act, to challenge yourself, to believe enough in your dreams to turn them into reality. I hope you will discover, or further develop, the leadership you already possess. All of us can be leaders.

  • The first step towards leadership is taking personal responsibility.

  • We are personally responsible for who we become, who we choose to be.


“Today is a challenge for women… tomorrow will see how (you) answer the challenge!”


  • You don’t have to be special to lead a special life

  • Her leadership revolved around building larger and larger circles of followers and collaborators. She joined countless organisations, multiplying her ability to influence other,find allies and take leadership.

  • Her greatest leadership strength - her ability to connect with other people. The ability to motivate other people, to move them towards an idea or vision.

  • Leadership is a learning process


“In leadership, at its finest, the leader symbolises the best in the community, the best in its traditions, values and purpose”

  • As we develop leadership skills, we all need mentors to guide and support us

  • Your mentor is out there waiting to help. With focus and persistence, you will find her and others who will help you develop as a leader.

  • You can do anything you have to do - get out and try

  • You do not and cannot control others. In fact, the harder, you try to change other people’s behaviour, to make them act as you think they should, the less successful you will be.

  • Nothing ever happens to us except what happens in our minds

  • She focused on her own growth.

  • The influence you exert is through your own life and what you become yourself

  • The one person she could change was herself.

  • Leadership starts with self-leadership, with truly understanding yourself in every circumstance and finding your sources of strength.

  • You will get stronger as you successfully negotiate the hard points of life, but only if you take action.

  • Leaders choose action over inaction; they choose to heal, recover, and move forward with life

  • You must be willing to work, “with the forces of change”

  • You cannot avoid your share of personal challenges, difficulties and disasters. It is how you handle them that will determine how your leadership develops

  • Understand you cannot change or control others; you can only change and control yourself.

  • Search for optimism and affirmation in even the darkest experiences.

  • Finding your leadership passion or mission means being true to your nature. It means finding your “certain thing” as Eleanor did.

  • You can be a leader in many venues and in many ways, but you will find your greatest opportunities for leadership when you have found the job, issue, situation, or cause that touches you deeply. When you do (and if you try hard enough, you will), your power to lead will flourish. You will get a greater understanding of yourself, other people and the world.

  • What you are passionate about may change over time.

  • Eleanor would repeatedly choose to follow her ideals despite the repercussions she faced.

  • Guided by passion for justice, fairness and equlity. Eleanor began to lead her life in pursuit of fundamental principles.

  • A clear understanding of your values is a prerequisite to achieving your dreams, to exercising powerful leadership. Values are the underpinning of your leadership passion


“to create a grassroots movement, led and informed by women”


  • The world is moved by highly motivated people - people who believe very strongly or who want something very much

  • Pay attention to what you do and how you feel each day. Whom do you admire and why?

  • If you are self-aware, in touch with your values, motivations and goals, then your leadership passion or mission will become clear over time.

  • Government can’t do it all - we’re the rest of the equation… we all have so much power to change things.

  • She also sought to motivate more women to find their passion in life.

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

  • Mission must first be personal. Your mission must mean the world to you. When put together with your strengths, it becomes your fuel for achievement.

  • Creativity is an essential leadership skill

  • Achievement - First, she constantly worked to overcome obstacles, second, she always wanted to excel. Finally, she tried to reach the highest standards.

  • Act on what truly motivates you

  • Build your achievement motivation by taking on challenging situations. Your challenge needs to be just beyond your grasp, not outrageously out of reach.

  • Raise the bar for yourself

  • Don’t worry about what you “should” do, don’t stop yourself with mind games about what you “can’t” do - go get what you want, believing that you can.

  • Mission gives purpose to life. It adds meaning to what one does. In its purest form, it is so deeply felt that it explains why one does what one does. One’s mission will touch the heart versus the head.

  • Find your leadership passion. Act on the mission that will give you strength and purpose as a leader.


“She had a following, and people relied on her views and depended on her leadership”

  • As is often the case for women who want to be leaders but have ideas and ways of leading that are different than those who went before them, Eleanor had to blaze a new trail.

  • Women often have different ways of leading

  • Women affect male behaviour by raising the “level of consciousness” about women’s issues.

  • Women change power relationships because they are generally more willing to “empower others”

  • Women tend to pay more attention to “the way things get done”

  • Their preference for collaboration and consensus affects the management process

  • Eleanor as a women - “had the courage to be herself”

  • Like Eleanor, you need to be yourself, using your leadership in ways that are authentic to you.

  • The business world has shifted towards viewing effective leadership in the 21st century as highly interpersonal, relational, collaborative - in other words, people-oriented

  • “Challenging the process” is the action that stands out first on the list - who are the leaders who challenge the process? They are “pioneers - people who are willing to step out into the unknown. They’re willing to take risks, to innovate, and experiment in order to find new and better ways of doing things”

  • If you have the choice, pick the opportunity that gives you the greatest freedom to use your leadership and follow your passion.

  • Eleanor had to be persistent and principled in pushing for her vision, and so will you. There’s no substitute for principled leadership. You must turn your values into action and not give up. This not only demonstrates commitment, it shows integrity and honesty. That’s what others will be watching for.

  • If you show your ability to see a job through to the end, to push past naysayers and overcome setbacks, you will demonstrate commitment to your vision.

  • Most people admire and would follow leaders who are honest, forward looking, inspiring and competent, with honesty being the highest-rated quality.

  • She focused on real, lasting changes.

  • Practicing leadership your way is the best route to reaching your goals.

  • Your leadership will depend on your willingness and ability to communicate your vision to others.

  • Her empathy and sincerity, her ability to listen and respond simply and sensitively, and her openness and lack of arrogance all contributed to her ability to win over strangers - and be a leader of the political scene.

  • You have to paint a picture - that’s how people decide to work with you. Make them feel they’re inside the dream, they are part of the dream and the dream can become a reality.

  • Eleanor had made herself into a public person of enormous influence through communicating her mission and message.

  • Eleanor succeeded because she didn’t hide her light under a bushel. Follow her example by creating attention of your vision and not letting others steal or overshadow your initiative. If your leadership ideas are important to you, let your actions show it. Talk about your ideas, write about them, get them in the company newsletter - do all these things if possible - and do them more than once.

  • Repetition works because what’s important to you is not necessarily important to anyone else; therefore other people need to be reminded about your priorities. Speak up at meetings, corner the right people and communicate your message.

  • Be creative, have a clear message, use humour and be persistent.

  • Pick the time, place, and way to communicate as you push your ideas to the forefront.

  • She gave permission to every women leader to build her own power and leadership.

  • Communicate from your heart

  • Your greatest communication asset is authenticity, because it will allow other people to feel the emotional energy you bring to your message and be moved to act in turn.

  • Don’t hide your light behind anything or anyone.

  • If you reach out to understand the concern and dreams of those you hope to lead, you will be a more powerful leader. You can only do this by asking questions and listening, by reaching out to others and being open to them.

  • Gaining first hand knowledge builds your confidence and effectiveness

  • Only through an intimate knowledge of their dreams, their hopes, their aspirations, their vision, their values is the leader able to enlist support.

  • Seeing, listening, learning, and taking action.

  • Be true to yourself, because sometimes people are trying to get you to change things that you believe are essential to your success. You have to remember that those criticising you have their own issues, and you have to get past those to assess whether their comments have any validity.

  • You can’t please all the people, but you have to please yourself.


"You must do the thing, you think you cannot do"

  • Trying the impossible often, is the very best thing to do.

  • Like all leaders of vision, setbacks in moving her dreams forward didn’t stop Eleanor from trying again.

  • She led by being a catalyst for change, and created an environment where followers became leaders as they were drawn into her stories and motivated to act by her vision.

  • 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.

  • Believe strongly in your goals

  • Focusing on your hopes will lead you to be a transforming leader

  • Women build alliances, bring people together and most importantly they develop intimate, informal networks. Their biggest strength is communication.

  • Women must become more conscious of themselves as women and of their ability to function as a group.

  • The only way to build your contacts and networks is to be proactive like Eleanor.

  • Confidence in your vision combined with action - that’s the best way to develop your leadership network.

  • I see everyone as a friend and I try to be completely genuine

  • Your network is all around you.

  • Acquaintances…. represent a source of social power, and the more acquaintances you have, the more powerful you are

  • Like Eleanor, you must build your networks, but you must also work to maintain them

  • Women attribute success to their hard work rather than ability, and take failure personally

  • Oh course you worked hard, but don’t shy away from believing that you’re also smart and especially good at certain things

  • Her ability to learn quickly, to build powerful relationships, and to seize opportunities to lead.

  • If you take risks, you will fail. No one succeeds all the time. But failing doesn’t make you a failure. You have to remember that every risk taker has failed and will fail again. Just think of risk takers as “failures who succeeded”. If you are persistent in taking on challenges that stretch your leadership, you will succeed. Even your failures hold the seeds of success, since successful risk takers learn from every experience, analysing what went wrong and how to do better the next time.

  • Within each failure lay the building blocks of success.

  • Every athlete learns more from taking risks and failing than from an easy success.

  • The only way to become a risk taker is to take risks, fail sometimes, succeed sometimes, and keep learning from the experience.

  • Being willing to challenge your fear of failure, take on risks and successfully negotiate your way to success is key to powerful leadership.

  • It is not wishful thinking that makes me a hopeful women.

  • Faith that you can reach your goals, faith that you can lead others towards a transforming vision, faith that dark moments pass into moments of light and clarity.

  • When you catch yourself being negative, think of what Eleanor would do and try to do the same.

  • You need to accept what you truly can’t change or control and move ahead with optimism.

  • She led by example, working harder and longer than anyone else.


“Living and learning, she counselled, required curiosity and an unquenchable spirit of adventure”

  • Look for experience and learn from experience.

  • Being adventurous and setting up unexpected challenges is a way of learning about yourself.


“Life has got to lived, that’s all there is to it”

  • Eleanor had touched literally thousands of people’s lives, had created lasting change on a global scale, and had brought her leadership to countless causes.



1960 - You Learn by Living - Eleanor Roosevelt

Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman - Gail Evans

Women on Power - Sue J. M. Freeman



Nov, 1931 - “The Individuals Responsibility to the Community”

Wellesley College Centre for Research on Women

“Inside Women’s Power” - “the virtues of collaboration, coordination, sharing power and information, all of which are part of the current people-oriented, participatory approach to leadership”

“Women must assume positions of leadership and act with conscious awareness of the significances of their roles. When they do, their presence can provide new models of leadership for everyone with whom they come in contact”



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