By: Sydney W., Grand Worthy Advisor
When you think of the word, Pioneering, what comes to mind? At first glance, the beginning of the word is what immediately jumps out, and would cause many of us to picture the first groups of people who traveled across America to settle in the frontiers in the 1800s. Many of these pioneers began making the 2,000-mile journey to take advantage of what the United States had to offer. Some went to the frontier in order to prospect for gold, but many were looking for adventure or just the possibility of improving their lives. People left their families and friends, and many knew it would take a long time, if ever, before they saw them again. The trip was a long, hard, and dangerous one. The trail was rocky, raging rivers had to be crossed, and many didn’t make it to their final destination. Those who did make it, laid the foundations of the cities and states that would become the America we know today.
Personally, the word pioneering doesn’t remind me of frontiers and dangerous treks, but rather of some of the most famous trailblazing female leaders, who “pioneered” the way for many women to follow for years to come. Katherine Meyer Graham was the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, The Washington Post. Amelia Earhart was the first woman to make a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, and she was the first aviator to fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland. Katherine Johnson was a mathematician whose calculations were critical to the success of NASA’s first U.S. crewed spaceflights, which helped send astronauts to the moon. While the list can go on and on, these women revolutionized the world by challenging the status quo and having the courage to break barriers that stood in their way of success.
The lessons that we learn in Rainbow provide the foundation for us to become “pioneering” leaders. A perfect example of this can be seen in another trailblazing woman, former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, who just so happened to be a Rainbow Girl herself. She was the first woman to be confirmed as a Justice on the Supreme Court, and by breaking through this glass ceiling, she proved to women everywhere that they too could make it into positions of authority and power, even in the Supreme Court of the United States.
There is so much that we can learn from both the pioneers of the frontier days, and the trailblazing leaders that we continue to be inspired by. First, they know where they’re going, meaning that they’re visionaries and understand what it will take to reach the goal. Good leaders know where they are going, even when others don’t yet see it. They are also willing to take risks, shoulder the burden and take the responsibility for those risks. When they do this, they are able to build a stronger connection with those who follow them. These pioneers also become part of the journey, never asking someone to do something they wouldn’t do first. Pioneers also know the value of “being one with the team”, leading from within rather than from afar. They teach and translate, stay connected to their team, and know them by name. They invest in their people, because they know that the people are the mission. At the end of the day, a business or organization that invests in and maximizes the potential of its people is far more likely to succeed in its mission. Finally, pioneers know that eventually, it becomes time to return to the ranks, and watch as the people they inspired become leaders themselves. They take the risk, teach their people, lead by example and raise up the next generation of pioneers.
This is what makes them leaders, and it is why we can learn so much about leadership from pioneers. California Rainbow girls, I challenge each of you to be pioneers, to have the courage to break glass ceilings and to blaze a trail for others to someday follow.