Rallying Cry for Women Leaders to Keep Accelerating

Beth Speak

Accelerating and avoiding the tendency to hesitate is easy to say, but we all know as women leaders who live a full life every day, it’s not always easy to do.  We can always use a little inspiration to keep moving forward.  I recently found some inspiration after reading and listening to Abby Wambach’s commencement speech delivered at Barnard College.  Following is a summary of the highlights of Abby’s speech  found in a piece written by Bob Woods in Strategy & Business.

  1. Make failure your fuel. “We must embrace failure instead of accepting it as our destruction,” Wambach said. She recalled a story about being in the 1995 Team USA locker room, where a photo of the Norwegian squad that had just beat them hung on the wall as inspiration. “I learned that in order to become my very best — on the pitch and off — I’d need to spend my life letting the feelings and lessons of failure transform into my power,” she said. “Wolf pack, fail up!”
  2. Lead from the bench. Wambach lamented her very last World Cup match, in the 2015 final against Japan, in which she didn’t start and played sparingly — despite her extraordinary resume. “You’ll feel benched sometimes, too,” she warned. “You’ll be passed over for the promotion, taken off the project — you might even find yourself holding a baby instead of a briefcase — watching your colleagues ‘get ahead.’” Disappointment is natural, she said, but you can channel it into an opportunity by rallying your team from the sidelines. Indeed, Team USA prevailed in the 2015 World Cup. “My teammates told me that my presence, my support, my vocal and relentless belief in them from the bench is what gave them the confidence they needed to win us that championship,” Wambach stated. “Wolf pack, wherever you’re put, lead from there.”
  3. Champion each other. Wambach knows better than anyone what it’s like to score a goal and be embraced by a crush of teammates celebrating her accomplishment. But she pointed out that the entire team plays a role in that success. “You will not always be the goal scorer. And when you’re not, you better be rushing toward her.” Lift each other up, she urged. “Demand seats for women, people of color, and all marginalized people at every table where decisions are made,” she said. “Wolf pack, her victory is your victory. Celebrate it.”
  4. Demand the ball. Wambach shared an anecdote about one of her soccer heroes, Michelle Akers, rallying her team to a win after repeatedly calling for the ball and scoring. She told the graduates that, like Akers, they, too, need to recognize when it’s time to lead: “At this moment in history, leadership is calling us to say, ‘Give me the job, give me the same pay that the guy next to me gets, give me the promotion…give me the respect I’ve earned and give it to my wolf pack, too.’”

She concluded by talking about her fulfilling new life as a wife, mother, business owner, and activist. “Soccer didn’t make me who I was. I brought who I was to soccer, and I get to bring who I am wherever I go. And guess what? So do you.”

Here is the link to the 25-minute speech Abby delivered at Barnard, if you are interested in capturing the full force of energy and inspiration.