Leadership Wisdom

5 Leadership Lessons To Learn From Billie Jean King

If Bille Jean King had been a man, there is a good chance that numerous books on leadership would have been written either by or about her. While her exceptional prowess on the tennis court is legendary, what is not so abundantly clear are the amazing leadership skills she displayed throughout the course of her career. Here are 5 of the greatest leadership lessons to learn from Billie Jean King.

1. She wasn’t afraid to be aggressive

Image by Khusen Rustamov from Pixabay

When it comes to leadership, women and men have different challenges and obstacles to overcome. Girls are often socialized to be soft, gentle and non-threatening. This not only puts them at a severe disadvantage against men as they grow up but it is also an obstacle they will need to overcome if they ever hope to be leaders.

The fact is, women live in a world of men that often do not react well when they feel threatened. Without meaning to or intending to, many parents may unconsciously try to protect their girls by teaching them to act and behave in ways that are as non-threatening to men as possible. The truth, however, is that more often than not they are simply raising their girls to be victims.

A girl who displays any kind of aggressive behavior will often be chastised, while boys will generally be applauded for the same thing. As a result, women often grow up with an actual fear of doing or saying anything that may make them seem aggressive. If you want to do or accomplish anything in this lifetime, however, you will have to get over your fear of being seen as aggressive. From the very beginning, Billie Jean King played to win, which meant she wasn’t afraid to play like a man.

2. She walked the walk for years before she talked the talk

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Many people have strong opinions that they aren’t afraid to express. These days, it’s even easy to find a platform to do so. If you want people to actually value your opinion, however, you may want to spend more time building the expertise to back it up before expressing it.

When other girls were spending hours gossiping, talking about boys or doing each other’s hair, Billie Jean was out on the court practicing her swing and perfecting her serve. She spent years training and sacrificing for her sport long before she ever took the international stage. While Billie Jean certainly had strong opinions, it was her expertise that gave her a strong platform for expressing them.

Billie Jean King didn’t set out to be an international icon or change the world, she just wanted to play tennis. Most of what she accomplished was simply a matter of overcoming all the obstacles placed in the way of achieving her goals. In the course of pursuing those goals, however, she completely changed not only the world of tennis but the entire world around her.

3. When she wasn’t given a seat at the table, she created her own

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Women spend a lot of time talking (and complaining) about not getting a seat at the table. While in some cases (such as government or public offices) these may be valid complaints, the truth is women are not actually entitled to a seat at every table. When men build a company or organization, they have a right to fill the seats with whomever they please. While diversity and equality may make for a stronger company or organization, the leaders and founders of a company are not obligated to create it.

From the earliest days of Billie Jean’s career, she pushed for pay and gender equality. When the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) refused to make the women’s prizes more than just a fraction of what the men’s were, Billie Jean and her husband struck out on their own to form the Virginia Slims Tour. That, in turn, created the basis for what would become the first women’s players union; the Women’s Tennis Association.

Starting something of your own is hard, particularly when you are also trying to be a professional athlete. Billie Jean had to work far harder to start a league and be a player in it than she might have had to if she had just stuck with the USLTA. If she had, however, America might have never heard of Billie Jean King, much less Venus or Serena Williams.

4. She chose to make friends rather than enemies

Image by Cheryl Holt from Pixabay

When you’re trying to climb your way to the top, not everyone is going to be supportive. Some people might even try to tear you down. When that happens, it can be easy to want some payback once you make it to the top. While that desire may be understandable, following through on it may simply destroy everything you worked so hard to build.

In the early days, other rising stars in women’s tennis scorned Billie Jean’s efforts. As her efforts gained traction, however, it wasn’t long before some of those dissenting voices actually wanted on the bandwagon. Rather than snub them, she accepted players like Chris Evert, Margaret Court and Virginia Wade with open arms. The newly formed Women’s Tennis Association was better (and stronger) for it. When asked about it years later, she said “Forgiveness is important. Our job was to have one voice and win them over.”

5. She always knew who her greatest competition was

Image by Scott Webb from Pixabay

When so much of your life is a competition, it can be easy to make everything in your life a competition. When that happens, it also becomes easy to view everyone around you as competitors. It can be difficult to shape and form relationships when you see other people only as competition.

While Billie Jean King was a fierce competitor on the tennis court, she also understood that other women weren’t actually her greatest competition – she was. She had one and only one fiercely unwavering goal – to be the very best tennis player she could be. It didn’t matter how many titles or matches she won, she never stopped pushing herself to be her very best. Perhaps that is why her professional career spanned nearly 25 years, winning all the way to the very end.

Generosity Giving Philanthropy Wisdom

The Art of Giving Generously

Let’s face it, we all want to be generous and that is a good thing.

If you are at all like me, however, you may feel like you are constantly surrounded by need. From requests for a few dollars at the check-out register to commercials and advertisements pulling on our heartstrings to literal strangers walking up to us on the street asking for money. We are constantly being bombarded by requests (or demands) for money or resources. And that’s just from the people we don’t know.

Add to that all the kids of friends or relatives selling things, the needs of our own children, our churches or other civic organizations, our partners and all of the other needs, wants and demands placed on us by people or organizations we actually participate in and it can all just get really overwhelming. Particularly for women.

While this may slowly be changing, fathers (and men) rarely have the civic and social demands placed on them that mothers and women do. Even though women today may be just as likely to have a job as a man, historically women were viewed as having more time to contribute and therefore were expected to contribute more of their time and energy to social causes and civic and family commitments. This view has not seemed to change much with the times.

Eventually, it can become really easy to become angry about all the constant need we are surrounded by that we feel expected to meet. It is hard to be or even feel generous when the feeling of having to constantly be giving, giving, giving makes you angry.

There is a way, however, to become a truly generous person without being angry about it. 

The secret is to set boundaries.

Here are 4 tips to help you set good boundaries around giving. 

Photo Courtesy of zhuwei @ Pixabay
1.) Accept that you have finite resources and budget them in advance

Everything you have is a resource, and this includes time, money and emotional energy. Understanding that emotional energy is a finite resource is important because it means that you cannot care deeply about every single “cause” on the planet, let alone invest in them. The best way to learn to give wisely is to stop looking at it as “giving” and see it as investing. Investing in causes or charities that you care about is important because just like any other kind of investment it is important that you see a return on your investment!

Unlike traditional investing, however, the return that you see will most likely not be a financial one. The “return” that you are looking for is either seeing the organization actually have impact in an area you care about or the personal satisfaction you get from helping create change.

Sitting down to determine in advance what you have to give or invest is important so that you do not become overextended either emotionally or financially. Before you decide what you have to invest, it is important to look at what other commitments of time, money and energy you already have. Giving may require you to do some shuffling and cut back in some areas so you have more to give in others. To start with, just pick one cause or organization to give to and invest only what you have budgeted to invest. If you start to see a good return on your investment, then you can revisit your budget to determine if you can find more to invest.

Photo courtesy Jill Wellington @ Pixabay
2.) Learn to say NO. (Politely, of course!)

Learning to say no is one of the most valuable and important skills a woman can master. It is very important for women to be aware that we face a “double-whammy” of sorts when it comes to giving and generosity. To begin with, many of us have been conditioned and raised to believe that whatever need anyone else has, it is our responsibility to meet it! This may be particularly true if you have been raised in any type of religious environment.

The second challenge we face is that as women, we are more in touch with and aware of our emotions, which makes us more vulnerable to emotional pleas. If you have not carefully set out and budgeted what you do and do not have to give, you can easily find yourself giving, giving, giving to every cause and need you see. Determining in advance what you have to give and giving it can help protect you from the constant bombardment of emotional pleas and need you are surrounded by.

3.) Do your homework and find a good fit

Remember that “giving” is really a form of investing and the goal is to actually see an ROI. If the charity or cause you choose to invest in is actually using their resources wisely, then you should easily see that ROI in the form of the impact made by your dollars. In addition, however, not everyone has money to give and money is not the only thing you can give.

If you’re an outdoor person that just loves to camp, hike, fish or mountain bike, find an organization that mentors youth or Veterans or someone that you can share your love of the outdoors with; someone that needs what you have to offer. If you love to read, write, sew or scrapbook, there are organizations that can use all of those things.  If you are a plumber, carpenter or like to work with your hands, there are plenty of organizations that can use those skills.   

You may also want to use volunteer or philanthropy opportunities to build relationships with your family, friends or coworkers or to set a good example for your kids. Whatever your skills, gifts, needs or interests are, there is someone out there that needs them. Find an organization that needs what you have to offer – that also fits your needs – and offer it!

4.) Once your boundaries are set, stand your ground – both with the organization and with yourself!

There is always going to be more need than any one person or organization can meet in any given area.  The more our hearts become invested, the more need we see – which is often why people avoid getting their hearts invested in the first place. Some people actually know that it’s far easier to write a check than get personally involved, so that’s what they do. If you do get personally involved, however, it can become harder and harder to say “no” to ever increasing demands. This is where we have to remember point 1. You have finite resources. Use them wisely and do not allow yourself to be compelled into giving more than you can.

The world is not your responsibility to save!

Giving and being generous are both important parts of being human. If you are not wise about how you give, however, you will quickly become burned-out, angry and bitter. That doesn’t help anyone. Set boundaries and limits around your giving and don’t let anyone push you past them.  This will help you truly be a generous person without being angry and resentful about it. It’s hard, but it’s so worth it.