Environment & Leadership: Tips from a Pro at NAEM Women’s Roundtable

© 2012 Ann Goodman

One of the outstanding presenters at NAEM’s recent roundtable onwomen’s leadership and environment was Susan Eisenhower, president of the Eisenhower Group Inc. and appointed member of the DEC’s commission
on America’s Nuclear Future (tasked with safely developing long-term solutions for the nuclear fuel cycle), and granddaughter of President “Ike” Eisenhower.
Her career has been one marked by progressive inquiry, critical thought and independent judgment.
She had some particularly wise words to impart to on leadership and environment to an audience of women environmental professionals in the corporate, policy and nonprofit sectors. Here are a few of her tips:

On Leadership:

•       Two myths about leadership: 1) Everyone can be a leader. (Actually,
it requires taking risks, having guts and controlling one’s inner
space), and 2) Leadership means adhering to your strategic goals.
(It’s also about demonstrating flexibility in getting there.  World
War II is a case in point).
•       “We’ve become a nation of careerists versus leaders.”
•       “Leaders have a phenomenal control over their inner space.  It
really matters what subordinates see.  People will never forget how
you make them feel.”
•       “One reason men are skeptical of women in the workplace is they fear
women’s emotions, and [many men] can’t cope with it.”
•       “We need time and power to gain control over our inner space; today
everything works against this silence.”
•       As a leader, you have to ask: “Are you getting what you need to get
you to a centered place where you can talk to people?”

On environment:

•       “In our approach to climate change, short-term thinking is an enemy.”
•        “If you want to tackle the environment, you have to tackle
language. Words mean different things to different people, different
cultures, to men and women.”
•       “You have to understand the emotional chords. It’s critical what
words are being used.”
•        Ms. Eisenhower, an energy expert, has long been interested in the
use of language for framing issues.  She asked the audience
rhetorically whether public acceptance might have been different if
“the description of the Yucca Mountain as a ‘nuclear waste dump’ was
ref-ramed as Yucca Mountain, ‘a national strategic reserve of partially
used fuel, an energy Fort Knox of the future.’”
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