Anatomy of a Strong Leader

AAUW members' ideas on leadership
March 18, 2019


What makes a good leader? It’s the subject of countless books and articles, and of course there’s no single “right” answer. But it’s worth pondering, especially as more women enter tops roles in the worlds of politics and business. Many are redefining leadership as they move forward on their own terms.

We asked AAUW’s members and supporters to share their perspectives on social media and via email about what makes a good leader as part of a regular feature called #AAUWAsks. We think they came up with a pretty awesome job description. Here’s a compilation of what they had to say:

A good leader …

  • Is willing to compromise and has empathy, intelligence, patience, confidence and humility.
  • Sees herself as an equal rather than a superior.
  • Absorbs the blame and shares the credit.
  • Listens to other people’s needs and acts only after they’ve heard everyone’s concerns.
  • Teaches their followers they can stand on their own even in her absence. She is reflected in her followers.
  • Takes creative approaches to solving problems.
  • Communicates regularly with her team.
  • Removes barriers for the team that works under her.
  • Knows her own value and isn’t subservient.
  • Is flexible in dealing with situations and personalities.
  • Takes the high road in dealing with people. She doesn’t play petty politics.
  • Recruits people who others might overlook.
  • Builds teams with diverse backgrounds and ethnicities; doing so promotes creativity and endurance.
  • Takes risks and tries for new positions.
  • Carries the vision of the organization and maintains focus on the mission statement.

Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts, including Shirley Breeze, Naa Comfort, Judy Dinmore (AAUW Bath/Brunswick, Maine), Debbie Gruszczinski, Penelope LePome (China Lake-Ridgecrest Branch, Calif.), Kathi Pickett (Hudson’s Bay Branch, AAUW of Washington State), Jill Smith (AAUW Littleton-South Metro Branch, Colo.), Sabrina Ridenour and Alice Rodriguez.

To share your insights on future questions, look for the #AAUWAsks hashtag on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, or email us at

Do you know a college student aspiring to lead? Let her know about AAUW’s National Conference of College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL), where she can learn from the best.

By:   |   March 18, 2019