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6 Leadership Lessons from an Influential First Lady

Eleanor Roosevelt defined what it meant to be a politically active First Lady. Her leadership lessons continue to resonate for International Women’s Day.


Eleanor Roosevelt was the first politically active American First Lady, which redefined the influential role for future generations. Her life demonstrates powerful leadership lessons. Known as the World’s First Lady, she was able to break glass ceilings and cause positive change in the world. As International Women’s Day approaches, here are Roosevelt’s leadership lessons:

  • Stand up for your beliefs

    In 1939, Roosevelt resigned from the Daughters of the American Revolution after they denied African American singer Marian Anderson from performing at Constitution Hall. She then organized an alternate venue for the singer at Lincoln Memorial. The greatest leaders take a stand for what they believe in.

  • Support those around you

    After her husband was paralyzed from polio, Roosevelt filled in for him at meetings, state inspections and public appearances. Franklin Roosevelt would not have been a successful politician without her assistance.

  • Have a finger on the pulse

    A great leader listens carefully to understand the environment. Journalist Lorena Hickok recommended that Roosevelt hold weekly press conferences for women only, to ensure that media organizations had women on staff. This also ensured news from a female perspective.

  • Be part of the solution

    During Roosevelt’s time, women were often viewed as second class citizens. Instead of simply speaking up against this status, she supported appointments for women to government positions by submitting a list of candidates for leadership positions.

  • Use position for social change

    Through her newspaper columns and radio broadcasts, Roosevelt became the voice for the marginalized. She was instrumental in shaping the New Deal, which was a program aimed at bringing relief to those in need during the Great Depression.

  • Be bold

    As a leader, Eleanor Roosevelt understood that the world was her oyster. She was elected chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and one of her most important accomplishments as a leader was the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.

Time and again, Roosevelt used her influence, political and business savvy to bring about positive changes in the world. If you aspire to be a great leader, learn from Eleanor Roosevelt.

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