by Mike Fitzgerald
Editor’s note: Mike Fitzgerald is President and CEO of the Denver South Economic Development Partnership. During his 45+ year career in economic development he has set up and directed trade and investment offices in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South America, Canada and Mexico, and built teams and coalitions that have created thousands of jobs, hundreds of businesses and billions of dollars of new investment. Check back often to see what Mike has to say.
We live in a time where there is no template for the future.
The new economy is a disruptive one, where the future is difficult to see and changes course with the release of every new bit of technology.
The best way forward is to take on the audacious task of inventing our own future.
To do so, we need excellent leadership more than at any time in our history. To ensure that humanity is ushered into the future successfully, safely and enduringly, we can’t wait for a plan. We need leaders who ask the question: “What do we want the future to look like?”
In this landscape, business as usual is not going to work. We need the best ideas to bubble up to the top, and that only happens when there are multiple voices, coming from multiple backgrounds, seated at the same table.
Take Larissa Herda, who was waiting tables while she worked towards her degree at the University of Colorado. Larissa went on to become the chairman and CEO of tw telecom inc. (former Time Warner Telecom, Inc,), and led the company to massive growth, from $26 million in revenue to $1.6 billion under her tenure. It was one of the most innovative spans for that or any other company during that time.
And it happened thanks to Larissa’s leadership, at a time when when women made up less than one percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, according to Pew Research Center.
Stories like these tell us that the style of leadership women provide might be the answer to the challenges faced by all of us as we enter the next age of humanity.
I’ve worked with or for nine different governors, not to mention legislators, business executives, educators and workforce leaders (and seen it in my own family), and I can tell you that from my 45-plus years of experience working with leadership in every category from all corners of this country: women are excellent leaders.
Let me admit upfront that this is only my opinion, but I’ve seen it come to fruition time and time again. And while there are always exceptions, women typically provide leadership qualities that we can all learn from — and must learn from — if we want to enter the next era as a thriving, successful society.
To invent our own future, we need to look to a new style of leadership, and women are bringing it in full force.


When the future has to be figured out, it’s not enough to have one strong person.
No matter how strong they are, managing the task of innovating and inventing the future requires a team of skilled collaborators working towards a common goal.
From my experience, women are able to take their egos out of the equation and focus instead on what needs to happen to get the task accomplished. They are excellent facilitators, meaning they make the process easier for everyone involved.
This might include delegating responsibilities and significant authority to team members that are recognized as domain experts or highly-skilled in important areas, or recognizing when someone is overworked and needs a break to avoid burnout.
For the biggest tasks, like the ones we face in an uncertain future, we need people who can lead teams successfully to a finished task. The goal is not personal glory for most women leaders, it is to make the task easier to accomplish.
A my-way-or-the-highway management approach doesn’t work when we’re inventing the future. It takes a common vision among a team working together in harmony.
Regardless of profession, role, family structure or any other kind of organization, women show a facilitative inclination. This will become a critical factor to success in the coming years and decades.


By and large, women exhibit more empathy than men, and this has been confirmed by numerous studies over the years.
What that means in leadership roles is that they’re very good at reading others and understanding how to enable them to maximize their potential.
A study from The Center for Creative Leadership showed that managers who exhibited more empathy were directly related to employees who received higher performance ratings. This was true across countries and multiple industries.
Being able to step into someone else’s shoes and understand their needs, dreams and potential is a powerful force. It creates a sense of safety and support for subordinates, which we’re now finding is quantitatively much more effective than fear or aggression.
I’m not saying that men aren’t or can’t be empathic, but women have scientifically shown to be better at it. Leaders across the globe can learn from an empathetic approach, and the sooner the better, as we continue to untangle the challenges of a technology-driven, ever-shifting future.


We like to talk about how our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. The common thinking is that men did the hunting for all of our cave-dwelling relatives of the past.
But in today’s world, women are very good hunters, especially when it comes to finding the best ideas. Women are able to organize teams and processes in a way that allows the best ideas to come forward.
They’re excellent listeners, absorbing input from others rather than steamrolling over it or ignoring it completely. If their idea isn’t the best one, it doesn’t matter — what’s important is getting the task completed in the most efficient way possible. That often means creating an inclusive, diverse environment where every team member is valued and supported. This is what allows the best ideas to be formed.
If we’re going to invent the future, it will take much more of this. The best ideas come from a variety of voices challenging each other. If you’re hunting for a good idea, consider how you can create an environment that allows the best ideas to percolate to the top, regardless of where they begin.

The leadership we need, when we need it

We’re at a critical moment: as technology has become the most powerful driver of change, the future is more unknown that ever before. From every organization in every category, whether governmental or private enterprise, there are significant tasks that must get done to ensure a successful future, whether you’re talking about humanity as a whole or your local community.
While I’m painting with broad strokes, and I’ve mentioned a tiny part of the leadership qualities women tend to innately possess, it’s clear that these qualities will be critical to ushering us into a successful future. We all have much we can learn and implement from women in leadership roles.
To create the future we all want to live in — with happy human beings living on a healthy planet — we don’t need good leaders, we need excellent leaders.
“It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist.”— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Also by Mike:

The Ripple-out Effect: How to Create Sustainable, Healthy Economic Conditions in the Modern Age