Leadership Through Women’s Compassion

When it comes to Hillary Clinton most people have very strong feelings.

Few people are lukewarm in their thinking about the former First Lady/U.S. Senator/presidential candidate/Secretary of State.  You either love her for all she’s accomplished or hate her for how she’s handled her marriage.  People love her for the boldness she exhibited in her ’18 million cracks in the glass ceiling’ campaign or hate her for the ‘two Clintons for the price of one’ debacle during her husband’s first run for the White House.

But there’s something else about the woman most of us refer to simply as “Hillary” that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.  While she is a pragmatist when it comes to the political world, there’s a theme to her current diplomatic role that is unique from other Secretaries of State — her personal level of compassion for women and children around the world.

That’s not to say that others who came before her didn’t care.  Or that Hillary didn’t care about these issues before she was Madam Secretary.  But Hillary Clinton has crafted a role for herself as a tireless advocate for rights of women and girls around the world.  Her unique approach is embodied in images like this one with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader who was kept under house arrest by the military leaders for over 15 years:

Image via Flickr/U.S. State Department

That isn’t just a diplomatic greeting.  That is a moment of true friendship and compassion and warmth for a woman who sacrificed being with her family, and with her husband at the time of his death, in the name of fighting for the people of her country.

I’m not the only one who thinks about women’s leadership through a different lens.  When we all learned of the shooting of former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, it wasn’t long until the story of her deep friendship with fellow lawmakers Kirsten Gillibrand and Debbie Wasserman Schultz was highlighted, and how they supported each other in their public work, as well as their private lives.

I’m not saying that there aren’t men who lead with compassion, but it’s really more of a woman thing — not in a weepy, overly-emotional way, but in the sense that girls in our society are often raised to think about others in a very different way than boys.  So I’ve been pondering for a while how women’s relationships with other women, combined with the fact that women often view problems and solutions through different lenses, could impact the way our world works.

So, back to Hillary.  As Meryl Streep recounts here, there have been many other moments where Hillary Clinton’s compassion and dedication to the whole spectrum of so-called “women’s issues” around the world have been an unsung example of how to solve some of the world’s problems are they relate to women:

So what might the rest of us be able to do together if we could harness our own compassion for the benefit of others around the world?  What if we combined forces through our friendships, including the ones we’ve made with women we would never have met but for the online world?

So much has been written about leadership and there are many inspirational talks and conferences that address how we find our inner Hillarys.  But often those showing the way are men.  Women have a unique perspective on the possibilities that personal friendships can bring.  Why not take the next step and ask ourselves WWHD?  I know Hillary Clinton and Aung San Suu Kyi are not BFFs in the sense that many of us would define that term, but it’s clear from that image above that there is a mutual connection and concern and world view.  I doubt that you’d get that sense from an image where President Obama is giving a quick man hug.

What do you think?  Is there a difference in leadership styles between genders that could make a true change in the world, especially as it concerns women and children?  Or am I just still in my Hillary in 2016 dreamland?

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6 Responses to “Leadership Through Women’s Compassion”

  1. Elizabeth Aquino Says:

    This post excites me in its optimism — and resonates for me as I contemplate how to reconcile my more liberal views with those who call for moderation. Fulling embracing an entirely different road — that of being a woman — gives hope.

  2. PunditMom Says:

    Elizabeth, I’m glad you like this idea. I’ve been pondering this for a long time, and maybe it’s too optimistic. But it would be amazing to take a new and different approach, don’t you think?

  3. Helen Says:

    I believe women connect on a different level. Whether it’s from a leadership stance focusing on global needs or the local PTA. We are best when we feel we connect.

  4. Isabel Monteith Says:

    Why would anyone hate Hillary for how she handled her marriage.
    I strongly admire her for how she handled her marriage.
    Obviously she regards marriage as a commitment. Good for her.

  5. StephLove Says:

    I don’t think she will run in 2016. What I’ve been hoping is that she will stay on as Secretary of State and not move to the World Bank. I think she can do more good where she is.

  6. Maggie May Says:

    I love Hilary Clinton for her strong and kick ass role in politics. She is amazing- more so now than ever.


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