My Life in Leadership: The Journey and Lessons Learned Along the Way

Frances Hesselbein

Tracing her development as a leader, Frances Hesselbein reveals her remarkable personal story and the principles that have served and guided her well throughout her extraordinary life. Written in an intimate and compelling voice, this book delivers key leadership lessons applicable to leaders in every walk of life. My Life in Leadership offers a look at what shaped Frances Hesselbein personally and as a leader, from her youth in the hills western Pennsylvania to her professional journey with the Girl Scouts of the USA where she went from troop leader to transformational CEO, to how Peter Drucker handpicked her to found and lead the Drucker Foundation, and how she later transitioned the Foundation to the Leader to Leader Institute. With excitement and humility, she relives the key moments that have shaped her life of leadership including the day she received the country’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This remarkable book also includes stories about her world travels to deliver her message of leadership and her notable experiences with as well as what she has learned from some of the most distinguished leaders of our time including Peter Drucker, John Gardner, Max DePree, Presidents Clinton and Reagan, General Eric Shinseki, Jim Collins, Warren Bennis and Marshall Goldsmith. As inspirational as it is practical, My Life in Leadership is filled with Frances Hesselbein’s universal leadership lessons that will serve any leader, of any age, in any sector. Frances Hesselbein is the founding president and CEO of the Leader to Leader Institute (formerly the Peter F. Drucker Foundation), editor-in-chief of the award-winning journal Leader to Leader as well as co-editor of 26 Leader to Leader translated into 28 languages. Named the "Best Nonprofit Manager in America" by Fortune magazine, she serves on many nonprofit and corporate boards and has won numerous awards and honors including the United States of America's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The award recognized her exemplary leadership as Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. from 1976-1990, her role as the founding President of the Drucker Foundation, and her service as “a pioneer for women, diversity, and inclusion.” Praise for My Life in Leadership "Leadership is needed more than ever in these challenging times to create the future that we all want. Thank you so much Frances, for your very special gift of a life dedicated to service and continuous improvement!! You inspire us all to be better leaders" —Alan Mulally, President and CEO, Ford Motor Company “Frances Hesselbein is a national treasure, an inspiration, and a shining light. This diminutive woman stands taller in the eyes of those who know her than any other living leader. — Jim Kouzes, award-winning coauthor of the bestselling The Leadership Challenge and The Truth About Leadership “Frances’ words ring with the wisdom of experience. On this journey there could be no better guide!" —Thomas J. Moran, Chairman, President & CEO, Mutual of America “Frances is an American Icon.  Deeply influenced by the Master of Management, Peter Drucker, her whole life has been a sacrificial investment in Leadership in all its forms” —Bob Buford, Chairman, The Drucker Institute, author, Halftime and Finishing Well  "Frances Hesselbein is one of the most visionary leaders I have met during my military career -- on or off the battlefield." —Lloyd J. Austin III, General, United States Army “Through her life story you will touch the marrow of a unique contributor to humanity. This book’s appeal will transcend time and captivate the hearts of leaders around the globe.” —Margaret Daniels Tyler, Senior Program Officer, U.S. Programs, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Interview with Author Frances Hesselbein Author Frances Hesselbein Many times you were “the first women who” served in a particular position – i.e., “first woman in 40 years to serve as chairman of the United Way Campaign,” etc. How did this affect your leadership performance in these situations? Serving as “the first woman” always added a special dimension to my determination to serve in a way that had no emphasis on gender – only on the quality of my performance. I was never a “woman leader,” I was always “a leader who is a woman,” if you want to add gender as a consideration. Why did your grandmother, Mama Wicks, have such a powerful influence upon your career, your life? My grandmother had a powerful influence upon my life and work because she was a perfect role model for me growing up. She was an inspiring example of an adult who lived her values. She lived the advice she gave. How has your family’s long history in the military, from the American Revolution to today, influenced the way you’ve lived your life, the way you choose where and how you volunteer your time, today? I grew up with deep respect for the military because of the love of country and the sacrifices generations on both sides of my family made. “When called, we go.” To this day, in the military or not, I feel that “to serve is to live”. Peter Drucker wrote about, spoke about, and chose you as President and CEO of the Peter Drucker Foundation. What are the two most powerful messages he shared with you? “Think first, speak last.” “The leader of the future asks; the leader of the past tells. Ask, don’t tell.” Peter F. Drucker You write that your last year as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA was the most exuberant year of your 13 years as CEO of the largest organization for girls and women in the world. That is very unusual. What made this time so “exuberant?” That is when we came to see ourselves as “one great Movement,” not as over 3,200,000 members in 325 separate Girl Scout Councils, and the National Organization apart. “We are one great Movement” became our battle cry. We had achieved the highest membership and the greatest diversity in our history. Our program for girls was highly contemporary, heavy on math, science, technology, and the leadership learning opportunities for adults was equally exemplary. The board and staff saw themselves in a remarkable partnership – no “we/them” friction. Peter Drucker once said as he was leaving our Girl Scout Headquarters in New York; standing in our lobby, “I can tell a great deal about an organization from its headquarters.” (He had been in our building, all day.) He went on, “In this building the culture is palpable. There is little tension, and no meanness.” As I was leaving, I had little pewter “pinboxes” made for management staff. On the lid was the Girl Scout name, logo, date and, “Thank you for keeping the faith.”

Jossey-Bass 256 pages

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