My book, Kicking Ass in a Corset: Jane Austen’s 6 Principles for Leading and Living from the Inside Out, comes out from Iowa Press this month. In it, I share the six core virtues of novelist Jane Austen’s heroines — confidence, pragmatism, diligence, integrity, playfulness and humility — and show how they form the basis of Internally Referenced Leadership. Taken together, these principles help women tap into a deep well-spring of personal strength and internal locus of control that is always available to them.
There are so many ways Oak Park inspired, facilitated and encouraged this work. Specifically, there are six.
Oak Park trees: When COVID Spring began, I was in the midst of editing my book and was so grateful for the Oak Park trees in my backyard, which provided stability and strength during such an unsettling time. Ironically, my book is about the ways in which Jane Austen’s heroines enable us to find our internal power and agency no matter how we are being challenged or squeezed by the external world.
Austin Gardens: Being a lifelong Jane Austen fan, what Rudyard Kipling called a “Janeite,” it felt like a divine synchronicity when my husband and I moved near Austin Gardens. One of my favorite outings during COVID is to take our dog Addy (our Pride and Prejudoodle) to the beautiful park where I read or review student work. As a professor and director of the leadership program at DePaul University, College of Education, I teach doctoral and master’s students who want to be leaders in K-12 and Higher Education. While I often point to well-known role models in education, business and government to illustrate the characteristics of internally referenced empowered leadership, it is the comparison not to modern-day examples but to Jane Austen’s heroines that make the most impact.
Progressive values: I am proud to live in a community that is progressive and concerned about issues of equity. I wrote this book to help women tap into their power even when their environments try to take that power away. The “corset” is the metaphor I use to describe the ways in which women in the workplace may find it difficult to “breathe” as they are pushed, prodded and squeezed by seemingly intractable forces beyond their control.
Caroline Myss: I’m very influenced by the impactful work of Oak Park resident and world-renowned women’s empowerment author and healer, Caroline Myss. I was honored that she agreed to read and endorse my book. My book is written for all women who want to be the leaders of their own lives and tap into an internal state of power, agency and equanimity no matter what is going on around them.
Kick-Ass Oak Park women: In addition to my work at DePaul, I teach women’s empowerment courses, and there are many kick-ass Oak Park women with whom I enjoy growing and learning. They inspired my real-life applications of Austen’s principles and I am so grateful for their friendship and wisdom.
The Book Table: I was definitely grateful when The Book Table (1045 Lake St., Oak Park, booktable.net) was able to reopen for in-person shopping. I am honored that there will be autographed copies of my book available there.
Andrea Kayne is director of the doctoral program in educational leadership and associate professor at DePaul University. She has taught, written and consulted in the areas of empowered leadership, feminist leadership, emotionally intelligent leadership and internally referenced leadership. She lives in Oak Park with her husband (Andy Mead, Design & Production manager at Growing Community Media) and their “beautiful, blended family.” More on Kayne and “Kicking Ass in a Corset” at andreakayne.com.