One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is for examples of great female leaders in movies.
And while there are plenty of male leaders in movies, female leaders are generally harder to come by.
In the first of two posts, here are three great examples, each exhibiting different leadership strengths.
Rita O’Grady, Made in Dagenham
1960s industrial England was a male-dominated preserve, so you’d need considerable courage to take on the fight for women’s rights. Rita has it in abundance. A reluctant leader at first, she soon finds herself driven by a clear purpose: ending the injustice of inequality by rallying those around her to the cause of equal pay.
She’s unafraid to speak her mind – whether that’s to her Ford bosses or to formidable Government minister Barbara Castle.
And crucially, Rita has resilience in abundance. As the obstacles mount up, Rita negotiates them one by one, and has the mental strength to stay true to her course where many would fall by the wayside.
Key strength: Resilience
Dottie Hinson – A League of their Own
In the 1940s, equality for women was even further away. Female baseball star Dottie Hinson is a great example of an introvert leader, and one whose introvert strengths beautifully balance the rest of the team.
She benefits from being the best player in the team, but Dottie’s also a natural leader. She takes control when needed, particularly in the absence of her inebriated coach, Jimmy Dugan. Her quiet, calming influence has a levelling effect on the more boisterous members of the team, and she looks after their welfare – rounding up her fellow team members when a roadhouse raid puts their baseball futures at risk.
She also takes the initiative for the good of the team, notably by performing a spectacular catch in front of photographers to help drum up publicity for the ailing league.
Dottie’s the kind of leader whose actions speak louder than words: a leader whose calm authority make other people look up to her.
Key strength: Maturity
Elizabeth I – Elizabeth
As the new Queen of England in a turbulent, dangerous world, Elizabeth I has to learn quickly on the job. But she’s a young woman blessed with many qualities, not least her integrity and an ability to learn quickly from her mistakes.
To survive, she has to toughen up and take on her enemies even when it pains her to do so. She also learns quickly that she needs the right team around her: people she can trust and whose own vision and values fit with her own.
Above all, Elizabeth is a leader who is not afraid to walk her own path. She famously defies expectations that she will marry to secure her throne, and instead forges a new path as the ‘Virgin Queen’ – one that she believes is best for the country, even if that means sacrificing some of her own happiness.
It is this personal sacrifice and refusal to bow to convention that ultimately marks Elizabeth as an extraordinary Queen – and leader.
Key strength: vision
In our next feature, we’ll look at three more impressive female leaders from movies.