A Leadership Style For The Ages

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, passed the gavel last week — the gavel she had wielded so effectively for so long. She chose a peaceful transfer of power as she announced to her House colleagues that she would not seek a leadership role in the next Congress.

It was a thing to behold watching her handle those difficult moments with such remarkable aplomb. She combined her reverence for the work she has been privileged to do on behalf of her constituents and her Party with her own special sauce of intelligence, empathy, respect, dignity and humor. When you simmer those ingredients and add impeccable delivery and political savvy, the result is power and influence. Nancy Pelosi lead by an example that is worthy of your notice, especially you young women lawyers reading this blog. 

This is not a political piece. To those who say that they don’t like Nancy Pelosi and the principles of government she stands for, I respect those opinions. However, I respond that such reasoning is not the point.  My impression is that Nancy Pelosi cares far less whether you like her than whether you listen to her. And even those who do not like her have listened. They may have listened with the intent to criticize her, but they listened.

Nancy Pelosi understands her power as Speaker and as an elected official, and she has mentored many young women professionals in the elements of leadership and power. She understands that the power that women are capable of possessing does not have to be displayed in the same manner that men demonstrate power. Women can develop their own brands of power that suit their styles and also reflect high levels of confidence. 

Women, and also men I would submit, do not have to come to the discussion table with guns blazing. They can wield power with a scalpel just as effectively as they can with a sword. As her daughter once said, Speaker Pelosi could chop your head off before you even knew you were bleeding. Hers was a finessed approach. Witnessing her inimitable combination of charm and power and strength can take you by surprise. It sneaks up on you.

The example of Nancy Pelosi also teaches us that you don’t have to sacrifice the things that make you feel confident and powerful just because those same things are uniquely female. Meticulous dressing, including expensive designer labels, were part of the way that Nancy Pelosi presented herself, but they were not the substance of her.  They were the accents that finished off the attention to detail which defined her. 

The essence of Speaker Pelosi for me was not political. It was aspirational. Her effectiveness as a powerful leader is undeniable, and I am happy to have witnessed it.

For additional perspectives on Speaker Pelosi’s style of leadership, here is one I enjoyed from Robin Givhan of the Washington Post and another by Monica Hesse, also published in the Washington Post.

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