Leadership Skills We Can Learn from Our Founders

Even though we still have a long way to go to reach true gender quality, there have never been as many women in leadership positions in history as there are today. We are fortunate to have strong female role models in every field from politics and entertainment, to technology and business. While there are many skills we can learn from women such as Marissa Mayer and Shonda Rhimes, there are leadership lessons to be gained from the past as well.  

Our Founders Helen M. Dodge, Frances E. Haven, Mary A. Bingham and E. Adeline Curtis were leaders of their time at Syracuse University. Their hard work, dedication and sisterhood laid the foundation of Gamma Phi Beta for the more than 195,000 collegiate and alumnae members worldwide today. Here are three leadership skills we can learn from these four inspiring women: 

1. Teamwork - In 1872 Helen wrote, "We needed a social center, a place of conference, a tie which should unite us in in the midst of a more or less hostile atmosphere, a circle of friends who could sympathize with each other in perplexities of our situation. We had no chance to blossom forth in a free atmosphere of encouragement and approval."

Leaders can't go it alone. Great leaders must be able to work with others in order to build something bigger than themselves and that is exactly what Helen, Frances, Mary and Addie did at Syracuse University in 1874. 

Our Founders knew that women needed to come together in order to succeed in a system that was built against them, not for them. It was their teamwork and dedication to one another that afforded these women the chance to not only learn but to further the educational and leadership opportunities for women throughout history. 

2. Balance - Leadership is often a full-time job and if not proactive, leaders can suffer from leadership burnout. Balance is important if you want to be both a great leader and a happy person!  Our Founders understood this better than most and made sure to balance work with play. Helen chose to travel, Mary enjoyed sunset carriage rides, Adeline found solace in friendship and Frances preferred picnics and painting. While Zumba might be a more popular choice today, find something that can help you maintain the balance you need to be an effective leader.

3. Perseverance - There is no greater leadership skill we can learn from our Founders than perseverance.  Mary was the epitome of perseverance. She left school in 1875 due to poor health but returned the following year to finish her education. However, it was Frances that might have explained it best. 

In 1930 she wrote, "The Founders of Gamma Phi Beta were a rather serious minded group of girls. Conditions at that time made them so. They were pioneers in the matter of education and had won the privilege after much bitter opposition. Many thought women unfitted for the strenuous study of a university course, that they had neither the physique nor the brains for such an undertaking and, of course, we were anxious to prove ourselves the equals of our brothers or any other man."

Leaders with perseverance keep their chapters and organizations moving forward in spite of obstacles or difficulties and their determination allows them to find solutions when there is a problem.  It is because of the perseverance of our Founders many years ago that we are able to focus on building strong girls today. 

What leadership abilities do you admire most in our Founders?