A Tradition of Leadership

For centuries, leadership was thought of as an exercise of power and force. Since the second half of the twentieth century, however, that notion has been rejected and replaced by the simple idea that leadership is the accomplishment of goal(s) through the direction of human participants. This team approach is democratic leadership that marries the group's purpose(s) with individual needs and interests of the participants. It gives them opportunities to learn and grow without creating anarchy.

Perhaps because the founders were women, Zonta, ahead of its time, has always followed a democratic approach to organizational structure that has developed effective leaders. One of the best examples of this successful democratic approach to leadership is illustrated by the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley.

It is not by accident that Zonta SCV is one of only seven clubs globally that has provided two International Presidents. From the founding of our club, we have believed that "improving the status of women" includes giving our own members opportunities for professional and personal development.

Dr. Sharon Langenbeck followed a unique pathway to the Zonta International presidency. She has been, of course, very active in our club, throughout her membership. She has been a major contributor to our board, our Foundation, as well as our committees. She also went on to serving at Area and District levels. Unusually, she also became active in Zonta International very early on in her membership because of her personal involvement with the Amelia Earhart Fellowship Program.

Our club's first Z.I. President, Dianne Curtis, followed a more traditional pathway. First club leadership, then area leadership, followed by that of District. When one becomes District officer, one begins to be introduced to the inner workings of Z.I. In Dianne's case, she served on committees and, having distinguished herself every step of the way, moved up the ladder to Z.I. governance.

In these cases, both Dianne and Sharon took full advantage of all the leadership opportunities and experiences provided by Zonta SCV. Both women, of course, were highly qualified when they joined our club, and both were leaders in fields dominated by men. They were motivated to serve and to lead. Through Zonta SCV, they learned how to lead a committee, how to run a meeting, and how to effectively use Robert's Rules of Order.

Bylaws and Standing Rules took on greater importance. They became used to the structure of Zonta International by attending and presenting at Area meetings, District Conferences, and International Conventions.

These same opportunities are available to all members of Zonta SCV, and our club has been blessed with strong members over the years who have wanted to strengthen their skills and take the lead. Their successful leadership tenures have brought positive notoriety to Zonta SCV which is known throughout the community for great leaders. Three SCV mayors have been Zontians. A local library and a bridge are named for Zontians. Seventeen SCV Women of the Year have been Zontians. That is Zonta leadership.

There are 19 past presidents (counting our Bakersfield members) who are current club members. That longevity is uncommon, and the collective wisdom offered is valuable to our club. These leaders provide a fabric of experience to assist new and ascending members in developing their own visionary growth and skills to strengthen the club in new ways.