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Have you seen the movie Hidden Figures?  If not, it needs to go to the top of your watch list …now.


In the meantime, I’ll tell you why I love this movie.  I love this movie for uncovering a true story – for bringing history to life on the big screen from which we all can learn, and making a great leader “unhidden” by introducing the world to Dorothy Vaughan.

I was captivated by Dorothy immediately and her story has stayed with me since I hit play…and I continue to learn from her example.

Here are 2 reasons, of many, why I want to continue to emulate this woman:


#1:  Change Leadership

Dorothy exemplifies the critical leadership skill of change leadership.  Note, I did not say change management.  Change management is reactionary.  Although important, change management is not the same as change leadership.

Change leadership is proactive.

Change leadership is what happens before the change gets handed over to someone to apply change management skills.

Change leadership looks into the future.  What is happening? What is needed?  What should we be doing?  What should we stop doing?   How can we succeed tomorrow?

Dorothy “saw” FORTRAN’s potential influence before it “impacted” her job and the future of her department.   Instead of running away or moving to denial, Dorothy seized the day and proactively went about becoming an expert, but not just an expert for her own self gain, but to elevate her entire team.

There was “no I in team” for Dorothy.  She glimpsed an opportunity and a need; then she blazed the path for her entire department creating a “new and greater future” for her team.

She saw. She prepared. She executed.  And brought her entire team with her.


Dorothy exemplified Change Leadership.


#2:  Grace

Now, I must claim that I’m not sure on how things really “went down” (so to speak).  I wasn’t there.   I am relying on Hollywood being accurate on their depiction of this part of the storyline. But, with that said, I love Dorothy’s grace.

Dorothy could have easily carried a grudge, and rightfully so, against her former manager.  But, she did not.

No, she did not become BFFs with her manager (nor did she need to), but she treated her with respect and moved on.

Dorothy didn’t live in the past; she lived in the future.

She demonstrated a mastery of transitioning a wrong to corrective action, but then not harboring on it.  Carrying resentment, hate, and anger with us is a burden not many of us are “fit” enough to carry…. And it will wear and tear a person down.

Dorothy teaches how to be strong and stand up for what you believe and what you know is right.  But, at the same time, she teaches how to keep moving forward to new opportunities and a brighter future without the need to hurt or punish people along the way.


Dorothy exemplified what leading with grace looks like.


Do yourself a favor this upcoming long weekend; download “Hidden Figures.”   You might want to have a pen and paper handy, to capture all of your leadership take-aways.  And welcome to the Dorothy Vaughn fan club!

Author Doreen Linneman

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