Kicking Ass in a Corset is an innovative book that takes a look at Jane Austen’s six major heroines and how their characteristics can be used to help women lead in today’s age. Author Andrea Kayne is a major Austen fan and she has found a way to relate these characters to their internally referenced leadership style. Their styles are boiled down to Elizabeth Bennet (Pride & Prejudice) is confidence, Fanny Price (Mansfield Park) is principled morals, Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey) is play hard, Emma Woodhouse (Emma) is humility, Elinor Dashwood (Sense & Sensibility) is acceptance, and Anne Elliot (Persuasion) is work hard.
Author Andrea Kayne outlines what it takes to be a leader and how today’s women can empower themselves like an Austen heroine. Each chapter discusses an Austen heroine, her story, and how her internally applied leadership style can be applied to today’s world. Each chapter ends with exercises for applying the particular principle to your life. This was the most entertaining business leadership / self help book that I have ever read. The chapters that spoke the most to me were the Elizabeth Bennett and Anne Elliot chapters.
In the Elizabeth Bennet chapter, it discusses how women of the regency era and today “were socialized to forgo our own values and truths for those of others. We were told to be quiet, to be small, and to be like everyone else except ourselves.” In the workplace women then “spend too much time acting modest, apologizing, avoiding verbal opposition, and being indirect.” I have definitely found this to be true for myself with work. I’m constantly working on being more direct. Kayne points out that Elizabeth Bennet is true to herself for the entire book and doesn’t fit anyone’s expectations for what she should be. The book suggests exercises for looking inward to see what your true principles are and working on having the confidence to stick with your principles.
Anne Elliot is not like the rest of her family. She is the quiet overlooked sister, but also the hardest working and most capable person in her family. “The most effective leaders are ‘sea-faring folks with weathered skin,’ who work hard for their success rather than having it handed to them.” I love how this quote references Anne’s father’s, Sir Walter Elliot, vanity and disdain for sea faring folks. I also love this quote, “An internally referenced leader feels empowered and inspired when working with her own body, mind, and soul to achieve what she wants, which mostly is to make her world a better place.” I feel this quote.
I also did not know until reading this book that Jane Austen started writing Persuasion on the day that Napoleon went into exile, August 8, 1815. This book was filled with interesting tidbits.
“Indeed, these heroines balance me in so many ways. I reread the Austen novels every year to remind myself that, no matter what is going on in the external world or how I am being squeezed professionally or personally, I can always choose to be well in a state o f internal equanimity. Austen acknowledged that life can be challenging and rough, writing, ‘We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.’ But she also suggests to me that if we anchor in our internally referenced self, we have the makings of a kickass boat.”
Book Source: Review Copy from University of Iowa Press as part of the TLC Book Tour.