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Four-Star Leadership Advice

Posted on May 19, 2015

Ann Dunwoody Higher StandardI had the really cool opportunity to speak with General Ann Dunwoody, the first female four-star general in the U.S. She is publishing a book of leadership strategies later this year, so we discussed her book and where it fits in the growing segment of female-centric business tomes:

What prompted you to write this book?

When the four-star promotion announcement was made, friends, family, and colleagues were after me nonstop that I simply had to tell my story. That said, I knew I didn’t want to write a bio or memoir per se, and since my story was really more about leadership than about gender, that is what I decided to write about. I know there are literally thousands of books on leadership, so I spent a lot of time thinking about how to set this leadership book apart from others.

How did you approach writing A Higher Standard to try to strike a chord with the widest possible audience?

I never once thought this book would be just for military people, or just for women, but would, or at least should, be applicable to everyone who believes in good leadership. I also was blessed to have a very experienced and diverse group of editors. Many had no military background, and they helped me translate my military jargon into everyday-people terms.

As the first female four-star general, what sorts of messages did you hope to convey to other ambitious women readers?

I wanted other women to know you don’t have to be Superwoman to be successful. I didn’t just skip along the yellow brick road in the Land of Oz and find myself at the end of the rainbow as a four-star general. There were bumps in the road, there were obstacles in the road—but there were also people along the road who were willing to help.

The reading public seems eager for stories of women who have broken through the glass ceiling. Why do you think these stories are attracting such a strong audience now?

Young people coming along today have a tough road with struggling economies, stagnant advancement opportunities, and overall lower base salaries. Being able to read and relate to stories about others who make it, or open new doors, provides hope. I’m hopeful that others can learn from my experiences, and from others who are willing to share.

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