In September 1973, Billie Jean King, the world’s number one tennis player, played ex-champ Bobby Riggs, who had boasted that — even at age 55 — he could beat any woman. King was reluctant at first to take on the challenge but, as people know from watching “Battle of the Sexes” or living through that era, she walloped Riggs in three straight sets in front of 90 million TV viewers. Apart from this well-televised victory, King was the first sportswoman to top annual earnings of $100,000. She broke down barriers in her push for equal prize money for women.
On a very different playing field, Janet Yellen became the first woman to serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board since it was founded 100 years ago. Unlike King, Yellen rarely inserts herself into the "gender wars,”* but has become an icon to many because of her intellect, even-keeled demeanor, fierceness and ability to get the job done. Even President Trump, who is replacing Yellen despite her successful tenure on the Board, said she is an “absolutely spectacular person.”
Women need strong women role models in their careers and in life. Both King and Yellen fit the bill; in their respective worlds and eras, they were up against men, performed at their best, stayed calm, overcame hurdles and won in more ways than one. The US Open Tennis venue is named after King, and books, movies and museum exhibits, like the current one at the NY Historical Society, highlight her accomplishments. Yellen, a powerful woman in a tough job, has capably shaped US economic policy for years, following the crushing recession of 2008, and the economic path she charted is likely to be followed by her successor.
There are many role models, male and female, and their influence can be strong and inspiring. Fortunately, we don’t lose them when they take leave of their “game” or the world's stage. Think of Eleanor Roosevelt, Sally Ride, Ann Richards, Winston Churchill and Derek Jeter to name just a few. As the new year starts, may you enter it with your own good and vibrant role models who speak to your soul and to an excellent vision of yourself. And make sure you also are a positive role model for those coming behind you.
Read, "A Feminist Hero, Not by Design" (The New York Times)
Going, going... and the coach is gone.
Before last week, the Giants' much-heralded and popular football quarterback, Eli Manning, had started in a staggering 210 consecutive games. Then, on November 29th, Manning was benched by Coach Ben McAdoo, the first time Manning would not start a game since 2004. The fans did not like it one bit even though the team's 2-10 win/loss record was miserable. The next day, the Giants' ownership abruptly fired McAdoo with four games left in the season. (A Giants' coach had not been fired mid-season since 1976, over 40 years ago.) And Manning, despite the Big Blue's poor season, started in the game against Dallas on December 10th.
What happened? It appears that part of the reason McAdoo was fired was his poor communication and EQ skills (aka emotional intelligence). "He was stiff, humorless and obsessively guarded at news conferences. His communications skills — with the news media and eventually with many of his players — never developed into a strength." (The New York Times 12/5/17). Without good communication skills, let alone emotional intelligence, building a successful team, a successful fan base or a successful career, is that much more difficult. Eli Manning, I suspect, has excellent communication and EQ skills; his years of success in the game, his enduring (for the most part) popularity with fans, his demeanor on and off the field and his many endorsements of high-end products, all support this conclusion. So does Manning's response to McAdoo's upsetting coaching decision to bench him for a game — no tantrums, no blame game and no bitterness.
If you communicate well and have good emotional intelligence, great. If not, you probably are fighting battles you might otherwise avoid and should consider some coaching to get you there. Consider who got the pink slip on the Giants' roster. And, while you're at it, consider why Joe Girardi, who was very successful in many ways, didn't get his contract renewed.
I am an executive coach who works with clients on leadership and transition challenges, including retiring with enthusiasm and ease.. Read my bio.