It’s a well-worn saying that well-behaved women seldom make history. Like any cliché though, there’s an element of truth to the statement.
Throughout history, many of the most effective female campaigners and professional success stories have had to take unconventional routes to make sure that their voices were heard.
When we look for role models, whether in business, politics or other walks of life, we look for people that inspire and offer us a route map to follow, in order to realise our own goals. Both mavericks and team builders, at different points in our lives and for different reasons, can show us ways to secure success.
Of course, there are wildly successful teams, led by and featuring successful women, which have secured real and positive changes.
However, so often the women whose achievements really inspire are the ones who took a novel approach to accomplishing them.
Perhaps a long-standing shortage of women in positions to drive for change has meant that women looking to get noticed or be taken seriously have had to adopt more maverick tactics. Or is it that female mavericks are more likely to find success when they’re faced with limited opportunities?
So many of the women I take inspiration from demonstrate certain qualities that I associate with mavericks.
Firstly, they’re willing to be different, whether that’s through their eccentricity, commitment to their beliefs, their determination to succeed or a combination of them all.
Hillary Clinton may be far from a maverick to some. She’s often portrayed by critics as the lynchpin of the US Democratic Party establishment with unprecedented institutional support. However, she’s one of the women I’m most inspired by, due to being one of the first women willing to openly articulate her politics and ambitions long before she herself ran for office.
Now she’s the first female presumptive nominee of a major US political party, with a real chance of being the first woman elected as president. I will personally be rooting for her and not just as a foil to her Republican opponent Donald Trump (whose attitude to women has been questioned by critics), but because she’s a strong, incredibly smart leader who has the capacity to leave a positive, lasting legacy in the world’s most powerful job.
Secondly, mavericks can display records of action that combine their capability or tenacity with striking non-conformity. Helena Kennedy typifies this for me. I consider her a role model as much for her inspiring proficiency as a human rights lawyer and constitutional expert, as for her success in championing equal opportunities for women in law through the 70s and 80s.
As a lifelong Labour party supporter, she was key to the party’s creation of the Human Rights Act under Tony Blair. Yet for all her success at changing minds and leading from the front, she has stuck to her principles, rebelling against the party whip more often than any other Labour peer.
Crucially, these female mavericks know when to pick their battles. Whenever they’ve been faced with substantial opposition they’ve refused to back down and carried on doing their own thing, even if that means taking a less popular route.
Nobody sums that up like Tina Fey; the first female head writer at Saturday Night Live, winner of eight Emmy Awards and a woman who wrote and starred in one of the most critically acclaimed television programmes of the last decade. In her New York Times bestselling autobiography, ‘Bossypants’, she wrote:
“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss.
“Or they won’t. Who cares?”
This month voters in the UK will go to the polls to decide whether we, as a country, prefer to stand alone outside the European or continue to try to lead the international agenda from within it
In the run-up to the referendum we will be posting a series of blogs, client stories and interviews from across Indigo’s networks, taking a sideways look at whether we can balance the advantages of strong networks against the freedom to stand out from the crowd.