What the Girl Scouts Taught Me about Leadership

By: Pam Watson Korbel- Interim Executive and Corporate Director and CWCC Member

100 years ago this month an infamous American woman Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scout organization when she held the first troop meeting in her home in Savannah, GA.  Since, more than 50 million girls and women have proceeded through the Girl Scout program in the United States.

As I reflect upon my own experience, I think Juliette would be thrilled with the impact she made on the history of women, especially their leadership roles in the twenty-first century.

“Leadership is essential to getting things done. But the qualities of good leaders—self-knowledge, commitment, willingness to look to others for support, being open to change, and a desire to go the extra mile—can determine whether anyone chooses to follow.” As quoted in Leader magazine, Fall 2004, published by Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

These values, now embedded in the Girl Scout program, provide the seeds of wisdom any leader should embrace.

  • Self-knowledge – Unfortunately, the intellectually and emotionally intelligent followers of today, whether they are our children or our employees know a “phony” when they see one.  In this fast-paced environment, introspection about who you are has never been more important.
  • Commitment – The tireless dedication of women to their own causes has enabled them to become tireless and committed leaders of society’s needs such as hunger, homelessness and political change.
  • Willingness to look to others for support – As women leaders have evolved, researchers note that women lead differently than men. Particularly because of their willingness to collaborate and build consensus.
  • Being open to change – Many American women leaders such as Rosa Parks, Mary Kay Ash and Madeleine Albright rose to positions of leadership because they chose to accept change before others would embrace it.
  • A desire to go the extra mile – Through her tireless efforts to achieve her vision of a national program for girls, Juliette provided an excellent example of how hard work leads to success.

Technology, media, politics and globalization may all drive new directions for our culture.  But the foundations of leadership as espoused by Juliette Gordon Low will remain the standards for success of individuals and organizations.

A 50-year Girl Scout, Pam Watson Korbel is an Interim Executive, Corporate Director and Philanthropic Leader.  She can be reached through her company SmartGrowth, Inc. at 303-906-4144 and pam@smartgrowth.com.

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