ATHENA Leadership Virtue: Fierce Advocacy

The York County Economic Alliance recently launched their new Professional Women's Alliance (PWA) to share resources that celebrate, support, promote, and advance the success of women in business. The PWA's first event was a luncheon featuring past ATHENA recipients who spoke about the individual virtues that make up the ATHENA Leadership Model. They have graciously agreed to share their perspectives here, as well.

By: Dianne Moore

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Advocacy according to Dr. Seuss!

We all have a passion for something in our lives – it comes with the territory as a human being with a heart and soul. And sometimes that passion is focused on something we are personally devoted to - whether it be advancing what we believe or championing a cause on behalf of the greater good. Advocacy is the byproduct of a passion to be a change agent. And, important to note, it is driven by selflessness and a true desire to create positive change, not by ego or desire for personal attention.

ATHENA leaders become advocates because it’s a natural part of who they are – it’s in their DNA. They refuse to be distracted by opponents or doubters; and with their moral compass in one hand and their action plan in the other, they stay on the straight line toward their goal. That unwavering commitment to their belief drives their actions and compels them to rally support and fire up others to act along with them because advocacy is best accomplished as a collaborative effort. And that power of persuasion and magnetism that is advocacy draws people together by inspired leadership. Fierce advocates will go it alone when they have to, but more often are joined by others who share their ideals and sense of ownership of the cause.

So what’s up with adding the word “fierce” to advocacy as an ATHENA principle? Maybe because "fierce" is such a take-no-prisoners adjective (says Martha Mertz, our ATHENA founder). It tells us this is advocacy work on steroids. And also consider the definition of fierce: “intense in activity or feeling: vigorous or ardent.” So the power of the word fierce helps to illustrate the fact that advocacy for ATHENA leaders is no ordinary passion, but rather a relentless ferocity for a cause that matters deeply to them. But we need to be clear – this isn’t about picking a fight, as advocacy does not necessarily involve conflict or confrontation.  “You don’t have to raise your voice, just improve your argument.”

Our advocacy choices are also sometimes shaped by our personal life experiences or the roles we have taken on. One very special cause for me is supporting young middle school girls with making good choices for themselves that will help them to reach their greatest potential in life. Adolescence is a time in a girl’s life when self-confidence drops significantly and self-doubt rises, often times brought about by bullying and lack of direction. My own experience as a bullied seventh grader almost a lifetime ago, and without the added complication of social media, drove my desire to facilitate an annual event for local seventh grade girls called The Young Women’s Leadership Conference - now in its eleventh year and reaching over 12,000 local girls in the York community with inspiring messages of self-worth, finding and using your unique gifts to make a positive difference for others (maybe even laying the groundwork for future advocacy work), and resilience in a very tough world. And the success of this event is due to it being a collaborative effort with other advocates for these young girls, including WellSpan Health, York College, and the guidance counselors and teachers from local school districts in York County.

As a mother, there are often many opportunities to advocate for your children. Don’t even try to mess with a mother in “momma bear” mode. She is fearless and those who dare challenge her do so at their own risk. And all of the mothers in this room know exactly what I’m talking about. For me, it was supporting my youngest son who has learning disabilities. I was his fiercest advocate, never giving up on what I knew was his potential. He is now an engineering student in his third year of college and well on his way to achieving his career goals and dreams and he reminds me often how grateful he is that I did not give up on him when others did. 

And finally, as a nurse and in my long career in the health care industry in various roles, I have had numerous opportunities to advocate for the needs of patients. In particular, my passion and advocacy has been for the support of quality, affordable, and accessible health care for women of all ages.  

Advocacy (and yes I would say it has been fierce) has brought great fulfillment to my life and reminds me as an ATHENA leader, the necessity of always seeking opportunities to make a positive and impactful difference for others in both big and small ways. And quoting the amazing Helen Keller who always found ways to champion a cause on behalf of others - she described advocacy as rooted in the premise, “I cannot do everything, but I can do something.”

Martha Mertz relates advocacy to the goddess ATHENA in this way: “She provides a great lesson for us in choosing carefully the issues that we are willing to champion, and then showing up in full form and intention to accomplish what is necessary for the greater good. That, in a nutshell, is fierce advocacy.”

And so my final thoughts regarding Fierce Advocacy are just this: if, as a leader, you want to change the world in big or small ways, then find a way to be the change by doing something. And remember to always “care a whole awful lot.”

Dianne Moore is the Administrative Director of Women & Children Services, WellSpan Health. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from York College and master’s degree from Villanova University. She has been a member of the WellSpan staff for 19 years and has had various leadership roles in the organization with a focus on women’s health services development and strategy, health education, and outreach for all WellSpan hospitals. Dianne chairs the annual Young Women’s Leadership Conference in York for local seventh grade girls and is an active community volunteer, serving on several boards and committees. She has also served as an adjunct professor for York College’s Nursing Program. 

Dianne is a proud Pennsylvania Nightingale Award recipient - a statewide peer recognition for excellence in advanced nursing practice. She received the ATHENA International Leadership award in 2012.

The ATHENA Leadership Award® was inspired by the goddess of Greek mythology known for her strength, courage, wisdom and enlightenment - qualities embodied in the ATHENA Leadership Model®. The ATHENA Leadership Award® is presented to a woman - or man - who is honored for professional excellence, community service, and for actively assisting women in their attainment of professional excellence and leadership skills. Nominations for the York County Economic Alliance ATHENA Award are being accepted until November 18, 2016.