Inspiring Leadership Stories with Eleanor Beaton

Our Inspiring Leadership Stories are created to jumpstart your quest for inspiration

Meetings should boost your team’s morale even as they inform decisions, but inspiration isn’t always at our fingertips.  To help you with this, we present a frequent dose of inspiring stories to choose from, so you can transmit that feeling to your team.  

In episode 103 of the Meeting Leadership Podcast, Internationally-known businesswoman Eleanor Beaton lends us some of her own inspiring stories.  Hearing what moves such an accomplished icon of women’s empowerment is always a boon.

Eleanor Beaton

Eleanor Beaton - Meeting Leadership Podcast - Effective Meetings

Eleanor Beaton is an internationally-recognized expert in women’s leadership, and an advisor to growth-oriented women entrepreneurs. She has served as chair of the Visiting Women’s Executive Exchange Program at the Yale School of Management and sits on the board of directors of two Canadian venture capital organizations. She’s been recognized by the Corporate Excellence Awards as Canada’s Leadership Coach of the Year, and was named by entrepreneurial guru for women Ali Brown as “one of the foremost women’s leadership experts in North America.”  Eleanor is the host and executive producer of a top-ranked podcast for women entrepreneurs, Fierce Feminine Leadership. A former journalist reporting for the CBC, Globe and Mail and Canadian Business, Eleanor was a finalist for a National Business Book of the Year, Canada’s top business book honour, and has won national prizes for her journalistic work covering key issues related to women in leadership. Eleanor has spoken internationally at events whose rosters include notables such as the former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She lives in Eastern Canada with her husband and two sons.   

You can get in touch with Eleanor at

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00:00 – Show Opening

Are you ready to get inspired? Well, today on the show, we’ve got another installment of our inspiring leadership stories series, and today, we’ve got Eleanor Beaton. She’s going to inspire us all by explaining the power of explicit ambition, because when you’ve got it, you can create a significantly higher impact.

Gordon Shepherd: It is a great episode and you’re not going to want to miss it. And now, let’s roll the music.

00:50 – Podcast content starts here!

Are you a professional who wants to become a more effective leader? Then get ready for daily tips from the coach with the experience and inspiration to help you succeed in any leadership situation. You’re listening to the Meeting Leadership Podcast with Gordon Shepherd.

Gordon Shepherd: Welcome to another episode of the Meeting Leadership Podcast. My name is Gordon Shepherd. It’s great to have you here today.

It’s great because when you’re coming to this show, especially when you’re listening to our inspiring leadership story today, you’re the type of leader who wants to add one more tool to their toolbox. You want to take it up a notch, and you’re trusting this podcast to get the inspiration, the practical tips, and the strategies that you need to build your leadership skills and learn how to run outstanding meetings. It is great to have you here.

01:20 – Welcome back, Eleanor Beaton!

Gordon Shepherd: And today, we are lucky enough to be bringing you another installment in our inspiring leadership stories series. And our guest, well, it’s none other than Eleanor Beaton. Now, Eleanor Beaton, she’s the host of the Fierce Feminine Podcast. She also advises women entrepreneurs on power, presence and strategic growth. Her services, well, they’re designed to help you elevate your position, amplify your message, and maximize your revenues.

01:47 – MLP 093 – Why Leaders Needs Radical Conviction with Eleanor Beaton –

Gordon Shepherd: And that is right out of her bio. But the thing is, I read it straight because she earns it. And if you’re looking for proof about why I say this, just check out episode 93 on the Meeting Leadership Podcast. It’s called, “Why Leaders Need Radical Conviction.” And there, Eleanor just simply delivered on this core concept that all leaders can embrace and all entrepreneurs, especially women, can use to go forward with in a big, big way.

With that in mind, I’m not going to hold you back any longer. Here’s the inspiring leadership story from Eleanor Beaton.

02:21 – Interview starts here

Gordon Shepherd: Eleanor Beaton, this is such a great honor to have you back on the show.

Eleanor Beaton: I am so delighted to be here.

Gordon Shepherd: Back in episode 93, for anybody that has missed it, Eleanor went on about radical conviction. It’s must listen. I’m going to make sure that in the show notes for this episode that people are going to be able to get back and hear that.

Eleanor, though, some people may not have met you yet. How do you introduce yourself to those people?

02:42 – Eleanor’s self-introduction

Eleanor Beaton: I am a women’s leadership coach, and I advise women entrepreneurs on power, presence and position.

03:07 – What inspires Eleanor Beaton?04:19 – Gord’s inspirational biography suggestion – The Long Walk To Freedom (Nelson Mandela)

Gordon Shepherd: Power, presence, and position. I mean, that came across certainly in the other episode, and I know it’s going to come across today when we talk about inspiring leadership stories, and we gather back great guests to tell them what inspires them. So, let me just put you right there on the hot seat and say what inspires you.

Eleanor Beaton: This is such an amazing question. Here’s what inspires me: explicit ambition.

When I think about the documentaries that I watch, the people who I just can’t get enough of, the biographies that I read from beginning to end, take notes in the margins, highlight and admonish everybody around me that they need to read this biography, they are always the stories of people who have explicit ambition, meaning they have a burning desire to accomplish something new and different for them. And they are also very open and vocal about sharing their ambition and their goal with other people.

To me, that is so incredibly inspiring, particularly for entrepreneurial leaders, women leaders. It is critical for us to look around and see role models and examples of people who are aiming high, who are doing what it takes, who are striving. Explicit ambition is a huge part of that inspiration. So, explicit ambition is what inspires me massively right now.

Gordon Shepherd: You just said books you want to recommend, and I have to almost jump through the mic here and say, one of my favorite biographies is by Nelson Mandela.

Eleanor Beaton: Oh, the Long Walk to Freedom.

Gordon Shepherd: Unbelievable.

Eleanor Beaton: Right?

Gordon Shepherd: And one of the pieces that comes up for me, I’m talking about getting back to your radical conviction ideas, and what does it take to be that many years detained, to then hold on to an idea? We know this story of how he came out.

One of my favorite moments in that book was when they were all as leaders detained and on a hunger strike, he would notice, as he was going day by day by day, there were a few people in the gang that were too weak to continue with it, and they were sneaking food, and that somebody would have to sneak off and go to the bathroom, but he knew that you can’t, after a certain point, when you haven’t eaten for days and days and days, that that’s not possible, and that’s how they betrayed in a sense that they were not joined in the cause.

And it really to me speaks to his conviction, to stick to those moments along the way. And I just, that’s one of the biographies that definitely inspires me. What’s sort of a book that you recommend?

05:17 – Eleanor’s inspirational biography suggestion – Personal History by Katherine Graham

Eleanor Beaton: My favorite biography … and I would 100% recommend the Long Walk to Freedom. What an incredible story when we talk about a commitment to a vision over time, even in the face of opposition and challenge and obstacles that would cause so many of us just to kind of abandoned it. So, 100% that one.

And then, of course, a wonderful biography called Personal History. It was written by a woman called Katharine Graham. They since created a movie called The Post, but she was the publisher of the Washington Post during a sort of notorious time when Nixon was impeached, and just all this stuff was going on, but she was the publisher of the newspaper at that time.

It’s a fabulous coming-of-age story, and what’s so fabulous about it, in our culture today, we’ve got top 30 under 30, top 40 under 40. Well, how about a top 50 over 50? Because that’s what Katherine Graham was. I mean, she did not take the helm and the leadership of this organization until she was in her 50s. She had never really worked. And it’s about her coming of age story as a leader, top 50 over 50 leader. It was really a new season of her life. So incredible leadership memoir.

Gordon Shepherd: Dipping into your area of expertise, which is to support women leaders, she almost, in those decades, around those Nixon years, is a pioneer. She laid ground. Everything kind of needs to stick together to move female leadership forward. She was one of those ones that was very early on in a sense at that high level. Because there wasn’t, I don’t know how many multi-millionaire female leaders there were, decade over decade if we got the graphs out. But there weren’t that many at that time.

Eleanor Beaton: No. And you know what is so fascinating about her, one of the things that made Katharine Graham so beloved, so famous and so incredibly influential. So of course, she came from a background of privilege. But what she chose to do is once a week, it was like every Thursday or something like that, she would have a little cocktail reception at her home in Washington. So it would be like, whatever, from 5:00 to 7:00 PM or something, she would invite people over.

She would invite Senators and Congress people from both sides of the floor. She would invite journalists, she would invite business people. She would bring together people to her home to break bread together, have a drink together, to know one another.

And what she ultimately ended up being was this convener, like a social convener, and using that as a vehicle of relationship of trust-building and, ultimately, of influence.

Now, she died in the late 1990s, sadly, and she stopped giving these parties in Washington. And what was so interesting is the rise of sort of the more partisanship politics that we see today started happening after her death.

And so, a great Senator kind of linked those two, but it’s an example of influence, and of a really powerful woman leader. Understanding influence and understanding how bringing people together is the most effective kind of influence any leader can have.

Gordon Shepherd: I totally agree, and I just mean to pull back to your first couple words that kicked this off. You are inspired by explicit ambition.

Now, that might be perceived as a negative term by some people. “Oh, you just want money.” But the people that we’ve talked about, after you’ve said that, these are not money people, necessarily, in terms of the scale and the magnitude of what they were pulling off. It was more about an ambition for purer things.

Eleanor Beaton: Absolutely, and I love that you asked that question, because to me, it’s not a “this or.” It’s a “this and.”

08:33 – Explicit Ambition and Bill Gates

Eleanor Beaton: I think that the money conversation is a really important conversation for us to have. I mean, obviously, my focus is working with women leaders. There is a clear gender pay gap. So, I think what’s really important is that we have explicit ambition for impact, but we understand that it’s totally okay to also have an explicit ambition for wealth. I personally believe that those two things are really impactful.

I have been watching a documentary series on Netflix about Bill Gates and the impact that he’s having through his foundation. And I would argue that if Bill Gates had not had an explicit ambition for money, he would not have nearly the social impact that he has today.

So, I love this conversation. We could talk about it all day. I will go head-to-head with anybody, any day, toe-to-toe with anybody, any day, in a debate.

Gordon Shepherd: This is-

Eleanor Beaton: Say a nonviolent debate, I should be clear. Sounded a little intense there. I would go toe-to-toe with anybody in a verbal debate about the okayness of having explicit ambition around money.

10:16 – Female leadership and mindset shifts

Gordon Shepherd: Well, and you’ve shifted me just quickly in the way that you’ve set that up. And when I think about female leadership and mindset shifts that need to be made, this is one of them.

Eleanor Beaton: Yes. What we actually get to, if people will allow for a moment to focus on women and ambition, there’s something called the Bem Sex-Role Inventory. And so, this is a tool developed by psychologists over decades to understand how do we, in our society, define what it means to be feminine versus masculine.

What was so interesting about this is in thousands and thousands of surveys, what it means to be feminine is really two things to be. It’s relational, so it’s in relation to somebody else, and it’s also service-based. And so, to be feminine means that you give something to somebody else. So, if you’re not doing that, you’re not feminine.

And for female leaders, I think it’s really important that we understand that’s a construct of what it means to be female. In order to be a powerful female leader, it’s important to understand, we don’t just have to give something to somebody else. We can build something for ourselves. And very often, that’s about our vision, our agenda, and being okay with advancing those things.

Gordon Shepherd: Well, I think this is really important in terms of getting a message out to female leaders and maybe leaders in general. I always say, I wish we were living in a Star Trek episode 500 years from now, and we didn’t have to debate this male/female thing anymore, but it’s such important work that you’re doing and so necessary.

Eleanor Beaton: Right.

Gordon Shepherd: I mean, I don’t know what the board stats are these days, but it’s single digit representations on corporate boards certainly in Canada. This gap needs to shift faster.

Gordon Shepherd: You’re doing the good work. You gave us a great, inspiring set of stories. You got me to talk about Nelson Mandela, who I haven’t got a chance to do that for a long time. It’s been great to have you here on the show. If anybody needs to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do it?

12:08 – Get in touch with Eleanor Beaton –

Eleanor Beaton: Oh, I love it. So you could check out the Fierce Feminine Leadership podcast. That’s just Fierce Feminine Leadership on your favorite podcast platform.

And then, if you are curious about this idea of radical conviction that we touched on at the beginning of our conversation today, you can go to

Gordon Shepherd: Eleanor, thank you so much for being on the show.

Eleanor Beaton: It was my pleasure. Thank you.

Gordon Shepherd: There are just so many great takeaways from that interview, but this idea of explicit ambition as an inspiration. Imagine if you had it, for impact, for wealth, and you weren’t shy about it. What a wonderful leadership story, what a wonderful leadership inspiration.

12:47 – MLP 093 – Why Leaders Needs Radical Conviction with Eleanor Beaton –

Gordon Shepherd: And if you’re looking for even more inspiration from Eleanor Beaton, then check out episode 93 on the Meeting Leadership Podcast. It’s called, “Why Leaders Need Radical Conviction,” and you can get that by going to

13:03 – The Fierce Feminine Leadership Podcast –

Gordon Shepherd: And I also highly recommend that you check out her podcast. It’s called Fierce Feminine Leadership, and you can get that on your major podcast apps, or I’ll leave a link to it in the show notes here. And you can also look it up on, and that’s her website. And again, I’ll include that in the show notes for this episode.

13:21 – Meeting Leadership Academy –

Gordon Shepherd:    And I also want to let you know that this episode of the meeting leadership podcast is brought to you by the Meeting Leadership Academy. Now, if you’re looking for outstanding live training for you and your team to learn how to have highly effective meetings and build your leadership skills, then check out

13:46 – Podcast Outro

Gordon Shepherd: And as always, thank you so much for listening, and we’ll see you tomorrow on the meeting leadership podcast.

Be sure to subscribe for more strategies to help you become an outstanding leader. And don’t forget to rate and review so we can bring you fresh content every day. We’ll see you tomorrow, right here on the Meeting Leadership Podcast.

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Gordon Sheppard

Gord is on a mission to change the world, one meeting at a time. Over his 25+ years in business Gord has run or participated in more than 2000 meetings! Not only is Gord the CEO of Business Expert Solutions Inc. (owner/operator of Meeting Leadership Inc), but he is also a Facilitator, Trainer, Business Consultant, Author, Speaker and Podcaster who helps leaders learn how to have great meetings, so they can build outstanding organizations and serve their clients at the highest possible level.

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