What do Jane Austen’s heroines and “internally referenced” leadership have in common? Andrea Kayne has successfully connected the two distinct worlds of literature and business into a kickass leadership analysis specifically for the internally referenced leader. Kayne, a professor and director of the Educational Leadership program at DePaul University, thoroughly describes the leadership principles of each heroine while connecting them to real-life examples of people she has researched or personally knows. “Kicking Ass in a Corset: Jane Austen’s 6 Principles for Living and Leading from the Inside Out” is not your typical self-help book. The principles shared are easy to remember as long as you know the stories of Austen’s six heroines: Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, Anne Elliot, Fanny Price, Catherine Morland and Emma Woodhouse. If these names sound familiar, you will feel determined to reread Austen’s novels or to start reading them if you have not read them. Be aware that there are spoilers!
For this review, I will cover my two favorite Austen heroines:
Anne Elliot, the protagonist of “Persuasion,” embodies the principle of “hard work and merit over privilege and entitlement.” Although Anne comes from a wealthy family, she values people who have attained wealth through hard work. Her egotistical family pressures her to cancel her engagement to Captain Frederick Wentworth, a gentleman with lower status. Entitlement affects not only individuals but also countries. Kayne proceeds to quote psychologists and authors Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, when they say that “the United States is currently suffering from an epidemic of narcissism.” The good news is that movements like Black Lives Matter are working on fighting against oppression. As for leaders, the practice of delayed gratification, if implemented appropriately, can result in better outcomes for both the individual and the organization that one leads.
While Emma Woodhouse may be the least-liked of Austen’s heroines, she is credited as a heroine for learning humility. Emma is a young and beautiful woman with a “comfortable home and happy disposition.” Though she may appear as perfect, she is far from being that and is instead a stubborn individual. Emma may be the poster child of leaders who think they have full knowledge of how the world and their organization works. When they’re faced with institutional turmoil, they risk stability. Kayne discourages this mindset and encourages being humble by being open to growth. Leaders should aspire to remain a work in constant progress.
As an English major, I appreciate how this book reinforces the value of women in literature. The exercises at the end of each chapter are a helpful guide to implementing each principle to one’s leadership style. I found this book to be practical as it gave me the strength to do a task that required bravery, the bravery of a Jane Austen heroine. Reading just a couple of pages from this book every day will empower your emotional intelligence, and you will find yourself sharing values with Jane Austen heroines.
“Kicking Ass in a Corset: Jane Austen’s 6 Principles for Living and Leading from the Inside Out”
By Andrea Kayne
University Of Iowa Press, 208 pages
Angelica Flores is a Mexican-American writer and Dominican University graduate. She enjoys working on English-Spanish translations and has created the Southwest Nest Series for the online arts publication, Sixty Inches From Center. She also writes for The Gate Newspaper, where she has reviewed books, films, and theater performances. She works for the Poetry Foundation and is the owner of the blog, The Macaron Raccoon.