Forbes Coaches Council Member

The Book That Changed Everything: Profiles of Female Genius

Ayn Rand Quote

No, not mine. Profiles of Female Genius is a book that appeared in my life many years ago. It was a gift from a very shady character. And because I have cat-like curiosity and believe it’s ‘better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t,’ I held onto it with cautious interest. About 10 years ago, I finally read it. It changed my life.

I embraced who I am and began the process of understanding the thing I can’t stop myself from doing. This launched me on the trajectory that my life and career have become.

As the title states, the book profiles 13 creative women who changed the world: Oprah, Golda Meir, Gloria Steinem, Madonna, Jane Fonda, Estee Lauder, Ayn Rand, Margaret Thatcher, Mary Kay Ash, Liz Claiborne, Maria Callas, Linda Wachner and Lillian Vernon.

There are many criteria for why these women were selected and recognized as the “crème de la crème” of female accomplishment, destined to be the role models for future generations. The author identified 13 behavioral and experiential commonalities amongst these women. I identify with at least 8.

  1. First born females or father’s favorites [Father the major influence]: They demonstrate perfectionism, strive for superiority and have a high need to achieve.
  2. Transient childhoods [Leading to autonomous self-sufficiency]: They have the ability to cope in foreign environments, which was earned early in life through repeated movement.
  3. Female mentors [Education in all]: Excellent feminist role models and mentors, larger than life fantasy heroines.
  4. Self-employed father who became influential mentor: Father made his own way in the world as a shopkeeper, carpenter, entrepreneur or salesman.
  5. Perfectionists [Willing to sacrifice everything for their goal]: Strive for power and superiority through internalized “will to power.”
  6. Persistently goal-oriented workaholics [Intransigent]: Persevering prevails in entrepreneurship. Individuals who never give up never lose!
  7. Competitive drive and empowered to achieve: Aggressive behavior where winning is more important than playing.
  8. Renegade “break the rules” mentality [“Kirton’s Innovator Behavior Style”]: Preference for doing things “differently” rather than  “doing things excellently.”
  9. Independent and indomitable personality: Intense and fearless with total self-sufficiency and self- assurance.
  10. High self-confidence/self-esteem/self-image: Arrogance preferable to submissiveness for innovative success.
  11. Charismatic, persuasive personality [A mystical aura]: Enthusiastic, passionate and inspirational leadership qualities.
  12. Right brain intuitive “gut” decision makers: Use macro vs. micro, long-term vs. short-term, analog v. digital, inductive vs. deductive, and subjective vs. objective approaches to problem resolution.
  13. Psychic energy level [Sublimated libidinal drives of insecurity and inferiority]: High need to achieve. Innate fear of failure sublimated into over-achievement.

Ironically, I struggled with the traits that gave me my power. I tried to “normalize” until reading these words: “they thought, acted and operated differently from the average person.” And those words finally gave me permission to be me. After reading this book, I owned them. I dove into increasing my awareness. I pushed them deep into my heart and allowed them to make me who I am. They are my secret sauce.

I encourage every aspiring leader – especially women – to figure out which of these traits are you.

Own them.
Surrender to them.
Allow them to possess you.

Here are some of the points I most identified with:

  • Most [women] were treated in a very adult manner as children. Many were the only children or were with older parents. They were thought of as “little adults” with very mature and aggressive natures. They saw themselves as the center of the universe because they were.
  • They listened to their own internal drum beat and cared little about what the rest of the world heard.
  • They formed their internal self-images at a very early age.
  • The traits found to be critical to their success: self–confidence, comfort with ambiguity and risk taking, renegade behavior, “type A” work ethic, intuitive visionary, heuristic learning skills and an obsessive will.

It’s not surprising that I am no longer in touch with the person who gave me this book, but it was an invaluable gift. It changed my life and I am grateful.

Watch my latest CEO Forum coverage on 2016 Employee Engagement Trends with advice from David Niu, CEO of TINYpulse, Henry Albrecht, CEO of Limeade and Mike Metzger, CEO of PayScale. Thank you to our sponsor, Ryan Swanson Law.