Women Inspiring Women with Lean-In Stories – by Deborah Levine

Who among us has not been touched by success stories or by stories of daring adventures, altruistic sacrifices, or futuristic inventions? Whether it’s rags-to-riches or rising from the ashes, we’re moved and motivated by stories of overcoming life’s obstacles. How do these stories, often of people and places unknown to us personally, penetrate hearts and minds so deeply? Can we harness their inspirational power and apply it to women with unrealized potential? Chattanooga’s Lean In – Women GroundBreakers tackled the challenge using the Matrix Model Management System.

Naming & Owning

The System’s Wise-Decision Making Matrix divides leadership traits and strategies into categories that we instinctually gravitate towards, but don’t often consciously choose to adopt. By naming those traits and strategies, they rise to our awareness and our minds focus on them. Four categories were highlighted: Expertise, Character, Vision, and Action. Of the four, the category receiving the most votes for greatest value was Character. Words such as Trustworthy, Dependable, and Responsible were used to define what Character means.

To better illustrate the meaning of the categories, the groundbreakers were asked to name a woman who embodied those traits. Some chose relatives, others chose famous women, and a few picked fictional characters. By naming these women and defining their genius, we reminded ourselves of their stories and felt our own aspirations expand.

Leadership Icons

Expertise: Gloria Steinem, Sally Ride, Congresswoman Marilyn Lloyd

Character: Michelle Obama, Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)

Vision: Oprah Winfrey, Madeleine Albright, Dagny Taggart (Atlas Shrugged)

Action: Marie Curie, Sheryl Sandberg, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Angelina Jolie


Storytelling is as old as humanity itself. Stories capture the essence of people, places, eras, and ideas. The groundbreakers’ highlighted the reasons why we should pay attention to women’s stories.

“The impact of wisdom from women leaders, past and present, brings strength and motivation to succeed. These stories should never be forgotten. Rather, their accomplishments and impact on history should be reinforced.”
~ Tina Player

“The individual stories of trials, perseverance, achievements, and setbacks allow women and men to relate on a personal level. The ability to identify with the stories gives humanity to our leaders and inspires others to greater personal achievements.”
~ Victoria Overholser

“Hearing women’s stories will help you develop a goal for your life, help you find your purpose, and make a difference in the community where you live.”
~ Ardena Garth Hicks

“Not only do these ladies demonstrate strength in leadership, they embody or display the ‘soft’ character traits that make us sensitive to the needs of others. In other words, ‘They care’.”
~ Donna Roseberry

“Young women leaders need to hear the stories of those who came before them so they know that they’re not alone. The road to change is often bumpy, but with perseverance, knowledge and vision, we can overcome hurdles and succeed.”
~ Leanne Barron

“History should become Herstory. Most women don’t realize their experiences are a reflection of their past family relations, community relations, and global impacts.”
~ Denise Reed

“We realize that women leaders, compared to their male counterparts, are lacking in quantity. Yet, the quality of women leaders are as important, and their impact is exponential when sharing their life experience with those who aspire to be like them.”
~ Erin Crane

“Women who share their stories and the difficulties attaining their dream give us strength and encouragement to go beyond our comfort zone and influence the lives of other women.”
~ Brenda Freeman Short

Coming Up

Chattanooga’s Women GroundBreakers’ storytelling performance series is scheduled for March 2016 – Women’s History Month. Videos of the presentation will be available online. Stay tuned for more information at www.WomenGroundBreakers.com


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