After discovering the lack of books on female leaders and their leadership methods, Gerber felt it necessary to construct a book based upon Eleanor Roosevelt’s inspiring story. A combination of Eleanor’s biography and advice from the best female leaders of today,
Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way seamlessly integrates the best lessons and advice from the past and present. Gerber’s purpose is to inspire readers to follow in Eleanor’s courageous footsteps by detailing the story of her progression from the quiet, self-conscious child into the First Lady of the World.
Gerber wrote Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way to appeal to women as well as to motivate and encourage them. By following the time line of Eleanor’s life, readers gain a relationship with Eleanor. Gerber details Eleanor’s hardships and accomplishments, which humanize her and forges a bond between the historical icon and the reader. The lessons Gerber provides from Eleanor’s life are reinforced by integrating stories of working women today as well as the author’s own anecdotes. Stories of women overcoming adversity, learning to take risks, and discovering how to lead are scattered throughout the text.
The book is broken up into twelve chapters, which tell Eleanor’s chronological story and metamorphosis into the great leader and activist respected by all today. Each chapter commences with a relevant quote and concludes with a series of statements that summarize the chapter’s key learning points. While it’s best to read the book in its entirety the first time, its greatest attribute is its capability of being a handbook for living. Pertinent chapters can be re-read and applied to real situations throughout one’s life and career.
The first chapter, “Learning From Your Past,” dives into Eleanor’s unfortunate childhood while pointing out the necessity of understanding how one’s childhood determines behavior and character. When working toward personal growth, the best place to start is evaluating and learning from the past. Other chapters include the subjects of mentoring, mothering, networking, and learning, as well as leadership, criticism, focus, and risk.
The final chapter, titled “Never Stop Learning,” points out Eleanor’s commitment to lifelong learning by experiencing new people and new places. as she once wrote, “Never, perhaps, have any of us needed as much as we do today to use all the curiosity we have, needed to seek new knowledge, needed to realize that no knowledge is terminal....each new bit of knowledge, each new experience is an extra tool in meeting new problems and working them out.” In response, Gerber states in her concluding sentence, “Now it is your turn to learn, to teach, and to lead.”
While the lessons can certainly be applied to women in high-powered positions making influential decisions, their beauty is their applicability to everyday living. One of Eleanor’s great strengths was her capability of encouraging people to make small, progressive changes. Eleanor knew that in succeeding with little challenges, people gain confidence and courage to work toward greater change. Gerber supports Eleanor’s method by providing methods toward developing an optimistic disposition, elevating one’s level of tolerance, and learning to believe in one’s talents and capabilities.
With sixteen pages of photographs, hundreds of quotes, and the infusion of historical lessons with present-day advice, Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way will appeal to a variety of readers. As President of the Women’s College Coalition, Jadwiga S. Sebrechts stated, “Whether one reads this book for historic information, for behavior strategies, or for motivation, one will not be disappointed.”
Gerber utilized Eleanor’s own works in addition to dozens of books written on the Roosevelts and/or the topic of leadership. She provides several detailed sections at the close of her book to assist those interested in learning more about the legacy of Eleanor through the resources Gerber used herself. Included are endnotes, a bibliography, and a resource section complete with web addresses and contact information. Lastly, Gerber provides her physical and e-mail address and requests anyone interested to write to her, just as Eleanor did.
After extensive research, Gerber found herself astounded by Eleanor’s strengths and talents. In the preface, she writes, “Eleanor led me to reflect on my leadership, focus on my passion, and get ‘fired up’ about acting on it.” At the conclusion of Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way, Gerber leaves her readers feeling the same way.
- Lindsey Moreau, Hudson River Valley Institute