Tags: blackburn | life | equity

GOP's Blackburn: Women Bring 'Life Equity' to Politics

Wednesday, 04 Mar 2009 02:50 PM

By David A. Patten

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Small wonder that one of Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s heroes is former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. There’s more than a little of the Iron Lady in this spirited third-term Republican from Tennessee, as her new book “Life Equity: Realize Your True Value and Pursue Your Passions at Any Stage of Life” will attest.

Aides will discreetly let you know Blackburn is that rare female in Congress who prefers to be addressed as “congressman.” It’s as if she wants to send a message right off the bat that she’ll play by the boys’ rules, and expects to hold her own quite effectively, thank you. Based on her reputation as one of the GOP’s rising stars, Blackburn obviously does.

In her book, Blackburn tells about the first time she decided to run for elective office. She had great admiration for an elderly statesman type she knew of, so she naturally visited him hoping for some avuncular guidance, and possibly even a campaign donation.

[Editor’s Note: Get Marsha Blackburn’s book, “Life Equity: Realize Your True Value and Pursue Your Passions at Any Stage of Life” — Go here now.]

In an exclusive Newsmax interview, Blackburn says too many women underestimate the value of their experience outside the workplace. Her advice for getting ahead in the post-Sarah Palin era: Take an honest inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. Try to accept that some folks just won’t like you, she says, and don’t be afraid to express your own style of leadership.

Newsmax: As a member of Congress, why write a book about women stepping forward in business and leadership?

Rep. Marsha Blackburn: Well, we’re at a time in our nation’s history where you have more empty nesters, and more women are looking at the second half of life as a great act II, a great second act. They’re asking: How do I want to be a contributor and how do I want to be productive.

I am also meeting women who say, “In this economic climate I am going to head back to the work force.” And they love the part about leadership being a transferable commodity, and the skills that you have developed from one area, may be from working at raising a family, and taking those skills and using them as a marketable skill.

Newsmax: Has Sarah Palin had an impact on women saying, "You know what, if she can do this why can’t I?"

Rep. Marsha Blackburn: I think that anytime you have a woman who breaks the barriers it helps all women to say “I think that I could also do that also.”

I think Gov. Palin is a great example of a woman who stepped forward and has chosen to lead, and who has developed those leadership skills. I thought that it was fantastic when her husband, Todd, said that he should have paid more attention when Sarah joined the PTA.

Newsmax: Explain for our readers what “life equity” is.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn: Life Equity is taking your experiences -- what you have done, where you have been, the life that you have lived -- and realizing that the life you’ve lived has helped prepare you for the life that you want to have.

Your life equity is your experiences plus your strengths plus your passions. Many people never sat down to inventory what their strengths and weaknesses are. On the YourLifeEquity.com Web site, we have tools to help people to go through the steps of finding out what their strengths and weaknesses are all about.

People talk about sweat equity in a small business, or financial equity in their company or in their portfolio. The life that you have led is equity that you have built up in life. That is some collateral, and you should use it as you are applying for jobs, seeking other opportunities, and improving your family’s quality of life.

Newsmax: Your book counsels folks to transform their risk paradigm. Explain.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn: Women seem to have an aversion to taking risk. So I have an entire chapter taking risk, so they can begin to think differently. Fear of failure is one of the greatest fears that women will have. One of the stories that I recount is a friend who moved to Nashville as a writer to move into the publishing sector. I asked her why she did that and she said, “Nashville is a great place to fail.” She said that it’s a town of creative people and if they throw an idea out and it doesn’t work, they go back and start over and do it again. Aristotle says, “We become brave by doing brave acts.” And what we’ve learned is that courage comes from acting courageously. You have to do it on a day-to-day basis and it is one of those habits. You have to learn how to be a skilled risk taker.

Newsmax: Your book debunks a lot of myths, including the notion that you’ll be universally loved and admired for trying to get ahead.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn: As I tell in the book, when I first decided to run for office, I went to see this gentleman I really respected. I wanted to get his counsel and, of course, in addition to his advice I wanted to see if I could get his support in my effort. I talked about how I was going to approach the race, my philosophy of government and life. And then without giving me a word of response, he basically told me that he felt like I had a inferior background, my education was lacking, and that my career and work experience weren’t what he thought was adequate for the job. And that my demographic profile was all wrong. And then he pretty much told me that my time was up.

You know you are going to have that happen from time to time, but what I have learned is that you have to sort through the naysayers. Every once in a while there is a valid criticism, but also you have to realize that some of it is just like junk mail, and you throw it in the trash.

Newsmax: Are we seeing the rise of a conservative women’s movement in our country?

Rep. Marsha Blackburn: I don’t know that we would say that it is a conservative women’s movement. I do think what we are seeing is many conservative women who have stayed home and have seen their children now through high school, and are looking for those second act, if you will, for the second half of their life.

That’s one reasons that in the appendix I put some of history’s mentors, because we have some wonderful mentors there for conservative women, whether it is Deborah and Esther from the Bible, or Margaret Thatcher from modern day, and some of the wonderful conservative women that I have highlighted between the chapters.

It is important for us to know that there are those who have gone before us. There are those who have blazed the trail, and there are those that have shown us how to step forward, and how conservative women can lead.

I think that now is a great time for conservative women to step forward and lead, and I think that there are so many women out there. I talk to them every single day when I am out speaking on the book, and they have the skill set. They just don’t realize what a rich background they have, and often do not realize how diverse their experience is. That’s why I have an entire chapter about embracing a feminine model of leadership.

Women need to realize that they have all of these skills, whether it is organization or mentoring or optimizing opportunities. These are all key. It is a more female approach to leadership, but they possess these skills. Nurturing, encouraging, empowering individuals -- all of this you are going to find in a female form of leadership.

Newsmax: What style of leadership are people looking for these days?

Rep. Marsha Blackburn: You know, when I talk about leadership, and how women lead, there’s a phrase that I use a lot and I think that it is so applicable today: “Leadership is not as it appears, but as it performs.” People want to see leaders of action, whether it is in their Church, their company, or their country.

They want to see leaders of action who produce tangible results -- and women will do that. I love the fact that “leader” is a title you can assign to somebody, but “leadership” is an action that you have to exercise. And that is what people want to see. They want to see the action. Not the assigned title, not something that you talk about, but action that produces results. I often quote Margaret Thatcher -- if you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”

[Editor’s Note: Get Marsha Blackburn’s book, “Life Equity: Realize Your True Value and Pursue Your Passions at Any Stage of Life” — Go here now.]

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