Years ago, the New York Times best-selling author and feminist leader, Gloria Feldt, found herself facing a shaky bridge on a hike in New Zealand. It was a suspension bridge, the kind that had always terrified Feldt. It was hanging over an angry river and sharp rocks.
“I saw my whole life flash before my eyes,” she said.
Then, she envisioned something else. She pictured herself reaching the other side.
“I could not look down at the jagged rocks, I could not look down at the raging river,” she said.
“I had to keep my vision on my goal, on what I wanted to achieve, on where I wanted to be. And then, I had to muster every bit of courage I had to take the first step – to take action.”
You already have the power to succeed
During Forté’s Women Lead Webinar in January, Gloria Feldt models her “Three Keys to Executive Intention” presentation on the three steps she used to cross that bridge in New Zealand – Vision, Courage and Action.
Feldt believes these steps can help women realize their intention, a word she defines as having the confidence to see yourself “on the other side of the bridge.” Having intention is having the ability to say to yourself and to others, “Heck yes, I can. I am worthy.”
“Some people say that women have less ambition than men, and that’s why women have not reached parity,” Feldt says. Her extensive research says the opposite – women have plenty of ambition. It is implicit biases, she argues, that keep women from realizing their ambitions.
These biases “keep the perceived locus of power outside of ourselves,” she says.
Until women intentionally embrace their relationship with their own power, Feldt says, “We will stay stuck in a half-finished revolution.”
These internalized biases have led women to relinquish their dreams and ambitions. Feldt challenges women to confront their ambivalence to power by citing some impressive statistics.
Women rate higher in 75 percent of core leadership competencies than men. The more women in an office, the better the return on investment. Adding women to business teams increases the overall intelligence of a group.
She reminds the audience that, with these statistics, women already have power. It is time, she says, to harness that power with intention.
Three steps to get to your goal: Vision, courage and action
“Power unused is power useless,” Feldt declares in the webinar. Having power means nothing without a plan so the path to executive intention begins with a vision.
“Leadership is about the creation of meaning,” Feldt says. “It’s making sense of the world and the work so other people can coalesce around the mission of the organization.”
She explains that this cannot happen unless the leader has a clear vision of the work. It is helpful, she says, to see the end of the bridge before you begin to cross it.
To turn a vision into reality takes courage. Feldt explains the importance of flexing your “confidence muscles” by constantly doing the things that frighten you. She never lost her fear of suspension bridges, she says, but with each bridge she crossed, she gained the confidence to cross one more.
And lastly, she encourages women leaders to take action by boldly declaring their intentions to the world. Action, she says, is about being guided by your values when “it is time to take that ‘proverbial fork in the road.’”
Feldt questioned her own intention when deciding whether she should accept an offer to become the national president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. It had been on her mind while crossing that river in New Zealand. While hiking, she had asked herself: “Should I take this role?” It was her own proverbial fork in the road.
To hear about Feldt’s choice and what she has accomplished since, listen to the on-demand recording of The Three Keys of Executive Intention: Vision, Courage and Action.
As she says toward the end of her presentation, “I crossed that suspension bridge,” bringing the webinar back to one of its original questions: “What’s your suspension bridge?”
A full library of previous Forté webinars are available to Premium Access Pass members. For $50/year, Access Pass members receive exclusive invitations to Women Lead webinars. If your company is a Forté sponsor you may be entitled to free Access Pass. Check our sponsors to see if your organization is involved. Access Pass members also have exclusive use of the Forté Job Center; you can browse positions and post your resumé to be seen by leading companies seeking top talent.