Bruce Springsteen Keynote Address - Inspiration for Women Leaders

"There is no right way of doing it, there is just doing it." Bruce Springsteen. This is one of the great lines in this keynote speech Bruce Springsteen delivered on 15 March this year at South by South West, an event with over 10,000 music bands. Now no longer available on Youtube, you can catch it on NPR.

I recommend watching this 57 minute tour of the history of rock. As every business knows, you need 'cool people' as well as numbers crunchers to really get to understand your business. After all, we are people and we live in the world. So what does this 'cool people' have to contribute to business and specifically, to women in business?

When Bruce Springsteen picked up his first guitar in 1964, Rock and Roll had a 10 year history. Transposing that to a timescale we can understand, if he had started today he would only have had the lessons learned since 2002 to build on, and to be inspired by. There were not even 10,000 guitars to go round the bands then, he quips, they would have had to borrow from each other between gigs.

My mind shot immediately to a profound statement by top manager Pamela Boumeester that I read in this week's Dutch evening newspaper, the NRC: "We are the first generation of women to work full time." Until 1956, married women in the Netherlands were not allowed to work outside the home. It wasn't until 1996 that the term "Glass Ceiling" was invented - 16 years ago. We don't have a long history to call on, or refer to, or be inspired by. We have a short history, of women taking on tasks that to their mothers and grandmothers would have been unthinkable. Like the young Hedy d'Ancona, who in the 60s was the face of the right to decide about our own bodies movement, who kept on saying yes when opportunities became available, all the time making new doors open. She became Secretary of State for Women's Affairs when that department was created. She was a force to be reckoned with in the European Parliament.She did what Bruce Springsteen's call us to do: just do it.

Many many successful strands of rock culture have emerged since 1964. Many successful strands of women in business are yet to be invented. Some have been invented, many are yet to be invented. That is the nature of change. What we will invent will be a departure from the past. We will look at what inspires us and build that into something that inspires many.

It is important for women leaders get together and reflect on what is working and what is not working. It is important to speak out. It is important we find our voice together.

In the past week I have noticed a number of opportunities for finding others to work with, to inspire each other and create the change we want. These are all in the Netherlands:
  • Lesbian women are exchanging experiences together in programs like L-Women at Work.  
  • De Beuk is offering masterclasses for Leading Ladies throughout the year. 
  • Karin Doms and Hanske Plenge's  have a peer-mentoring event for women in boards in April.
  • Stichting Yente has developed networking books  as a contribution to the success of women entrepreneurs in established and emerging economies.
Culture change is always part of the equation. Any strategy you develop to create a new future will fail if the culture of the organization is not changed too. New thinking in this area comes from CultureSync, after years of research on reflection on what makes great companies great in both a social and a business sense. The book Tribal Leadership sets out their ideas and their roadmap to change. They find that success comes from being true to shared core values. Read Dave Logan's article in this weeks' CBS News MoneyWatch to understand how a company that is not being true to its  core values can run into big trouble. Knowing and operating from our core values is key to our success.

Bruce Springsteen closes his keynote speech with the inspiring words: "Don't take yourself too seriously. And take yourself as seriously as death itself. Don't worry. Worry your ass off. Have ironclad confidence, but have doubt, it keeps you awake and alert".

By Lin McDevitt-Pugh
Lin is owner of NetSHEila, a company specialized in maximizing the value of relationships between people to companies an organizations. As a management consultant, she has been trained in delivering results in Tribal Leadership, starting from finding the core values of each person in the "tribe". She can be contacted on +31-6-150 48468 or through the contact form on www.netsheila.com. She offers online coaching services to clients outside the Netherlands, and face to face services in the Netherlands. Follow her tweets via @LinMcDevittPugh.

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