Ladies in the Lead

Learning from Female Leaders

This course shows a large number of inspiring female leaders and offers insightful exercises to support you in your leadership.

About this course

Female leaders and influencers are on the rise: Vandana Shiva, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Rania Al Abdullah, Lyn Alden, Leymah Gbowee, Christine Lagarde, Julia Gillard, Angela Merkel, Nicola Sturgeon, and many others. We don't have to agree with them in everything, but they show us how female leaders can make a difference. This course intends to help you grow your leadership. It will challenge and inspire you with many examples, questions and excercises.

Why is this important? Women are still largely underrepresented in managerial and leadership positions and progress to change this is still slow. Studies repeatedly show that increased diversity in organizations leads to smarter decision-making and innovation. Studies also show that women ánd men benefit from seeing examples of women working in higher managerial positions, in real life or in movies. So the central question we explore in this course is:  'What can we all learn from female role models?'

This course uses examples of women in - formal and informal - power to offer role models to other women and to help grow a more integrated and mature leadership for anyone in roles of influence, men and women alike.

Internalizing the inspirational role models offered in this course will help you develop your leadership capacity and capability. It will help you grow a more integrated and mature repertoire of leadership behaviors. This will support you in showing up more effectively as a leader and in developing your team and organization. Regardless of whether you think women lead differently than men, there is enormous benefit for both women and men in leadership roles to learn from inspiring female leaders.

The image we present of female leadership is broad and diverse. Effective leadership behaviour comes in many shapes and sizes. The last thing we want is to create another limiting belief around what would be ‘typical female’ or ‘typical male’ leadership.

Are you curious about this course and do you want to learn from Female Leaders?

Subscribe to this course and dive in right away!

Course outcomes

This course offers a broad range of examples from feature films and documentaries. The detailed observation and exploration of film characters and real-life role models can lead to the following benefits:
* Being nurtured by and getting used to inspiring images of female leadership
* An inspiring experience of recognition
* Increased self-awareness and self-insight
* Expansion of your leadership repertoire
* More clarity and less judgement in noticing your underlying needs and passions
* Support in achieving your aspirational goals, from seeing role models achieving theirs
* Reducing the power of limiting beliefs and stereotypes
* Increased confidence and resilience, from observing how roles models respond to setbacks
* Regaining your flow, inspiration, creativity and purpose

Course framework: The Double Healix model

The guiding framework we use in this course to show the full spectrum of leadership qualities is the Double Healix Model of Leadership. This is a developmental model that builds on insights from integral theory, narrative psychology and growing empathic courage. The core of the Double Healix Model is a 12 phase development journey. Each phase requires us to develop and use specific leadership mindsets and capabilities; these will also help you get ready for the next phase. The cyclical nature of the Double Healix model reflects your journey towards becoming an increasingly mature and inclusive leader.
In this course we will also touch on some of the helping and hindering forces present in society that impact women’s ability to reach the most senior executive roles. But we will do so lightly. Because above all we want you to enjoy inspiring film clips showcasing exemplary women leaders.

Course structure

Each part of this course consists of a brief introduction of the theory, a number of video clips that show lived examples of this theory and a series of questions and exercises that will help you digest the images, draw out insights and apply these to your own leadership and life.

Created by

This Double Healix course was designed by Sylvia Mastenbroek in co-creation with Manfred van Doorn, Rozemarijn Dols and Lisa Vos, and with the contribution of many international female leaders.

Terms and conditions

Before we get started we ask you to agree to the general terms and conditions. We outline a few of these conditions here:
- Your login details are strictly personal. You are not allowed to share your login details with others.
- Copy and/or downloading texts and/or movie clips from this course is strictly forbidden.
- Double Healix MovieLearning reserves the right to make changes to the content of this course, in texts as well as in the selection of the movie clips.
- If you want to show one or more movie clips from this course to others, you are obliged to show them from this website and to arrange your screening rights yourself (we cannot be of service to you in this matter).


Module 1 - Female versus male leadership?

A frequently asked question about female leadership is: is there such a thing as typical female leadership? Our research and experience has taught us that there are two possible answers to this question, “yes” and “no”. The question itself is relevant enough to explore and we will do so in this chapter. Diversity, based on gender or other aspects, has proven to lead to more inclusive and more productive organisations. Bo...

Gender differences: Is there such a thing as Female Leadership?

The importance of a broad spectrum of examples

Managing a family is also leadership

The twelve phases in the Double Healix Development Model

Creative solutions

Global corporate trends toward 40% representation

Equality of Opportunity versus Equality of Outcome

The Double Healix model and the journey of the female leader

1. The Prologue - Develop your intuition and trust your resources

This is the first phase in the Double Healix model. In this phase you are preparing for your journey. The history you carry, as an individual, as part of your family, as a female or male, and as homo sapiens, shapes how you will respond to what is to come. The competencies that are particularly important in this phase relate to this subconscious preparation: your ability to trust and give in to the process, your intuitio...

Competences in the Prologue phase

The Prologue

2. Call to Adventure - Entrepreneurship and Confrontation power

This is the second phase in the Double Healix model: the phase in which you receive your main impetus for adventure. This Call can come from within or without, can be a pleasant or an unpleasant one. It demarcates a point of no return in our journey, even though it will often be followed by a period of resistance or procrastination. This phase addresses competences that relate to initiating or mobilising processes: takin...

The Call to Adventure

Competences in the Call to Adventure phase

3. Resistance to Change - Perseverance and dealing with resistance

The next phase after Call to Adventure is Resistance to Change. This ‘resistance’ can either come from an outside source (“you will never succeed at that”, “we will not allow you to do that”) or from internal voices (“I cannot do this”, “I am not ready for this”). Women are often very familiar with both types of resistance. What can be said about the impostor syndrome? And what do people need to be able to overcome? C...

Competences in the Resistance to Change phase

Resistance to Change

4. The Mentor - New perspectives and creative solutions

This is the fourth phase in the Double Healix. The Mentor phase introduces a new way of thinking. The Mentor is often an experienced person who teaches you new skills, helps you reflect and find different perspectives on yourself. These skills and perspectives will help you pass the Selection Threshold in the next phase, phase 5. The Mentor can also be a role inside yourself, when you get new ideas and explore new ways of...

Competences in the Mentor phase

The Mentor

5. Selection Threshold - To the top and dealing with power

In the Double Healix model the Selection Threshold is the phase in which you need to deliver measurable results. The Threshold can refer to passing an actual test or meeting an important deadline. Often the test provides access to a new world that offers something you have been aiming to achieve since the Call to Adventure. It requires you to adapt to the status quo of that new world. That status quo is typically guarded...

The Selection Threshold

Competences in the Selection Threshold phase

6. Star for a Day - Personal branding and celebrating your successes

This is the sixth phase in the Double Healix model, Star for a Day. After passing the Selection Threshold, we have reason to be proud of ourselves and our team. In this phase, we celebrate our success, receive the first recognition for our efforts, and are the center of attention. The competences that you address or develop here are: celebrating success, expressiveness, charm, charisma, visibility, self-confidence, pers...

Competences in the Star for a Day phase

Star for a Day

7. Grounding - Formalising and preparing for setbacks

This is the seventh phase in the Double Healix model: Grounding. After celebrating the first success, it is important to get back to normal, and stay level-headed, keeping both feet on the ground. In this phase, the intuitive, spontaneous, and creative processes from the previous phases need to be formalised. This formalising provides us with guidance to new successes, and prepares you and your organisation for difficult...

Competences in the Grounding phase


8. Reversal of Fortune - Empathy and reflection-in-action

This is the eighth phase in the Double Healix: just like the Call is the announcement of the beginning of the journey (see phase 2), the Reversal of Fortune is the announcement of the last phases of the adventure. This time, the Call comes in the form of a serious setback, that plunges you into a crisis. You have to learn to endure, wait, and show solidarity with your buddies and fellow sufferers. Competences required in...

Competences in the Reversal of Fortune phase

Reversal of Fortune

9. The Dagger - Crisis management and cutting your losses

This is the ninth phase in the Double Healix model, the Dagger. The crisis deepens and you gain more insight into the dark side of human nature. The Dagger stands for betrayal, lies, failure to keep promises, and breaking taboos. At the same time, the most painful discoveries can also lead to the most informative and valuable experiences. Competences that you develop further in the Dagger phase are: analytical skills, de...

Competences in the phase The Dagger

The Dagger

10. Return to the light - Ideals, vision and leading the troops

This is the tenth phase in the Double Healix model, Return to the Light. You find a way out of the crisis by rediscovering your own core direction in life. Within the journey, this is also often called "Return of the Mentor” where you remember the main lessons of your biggest teacher. This helps you to clearly remember your deepest ideals and goals. The competences that are needed and strengthened in this phase are: the...

Return to the Light

Competences in the Return to the Light phase

11. Resurrection - Morals in business and profit in purpose

This is the eleventh phase in the Double Healix model, Resurrection. In your journey, this is the last major barrier to take. The opposing phase, phase 5, is about ambition and results. In phase 11, it's about how we can save our soul. This usually concerns the question of whether we have the courage to stand for what we really value, and who we really want to be. An act of heroism often involves making a sacrifice for s...


Competences in the Resurrection phase

12. Elixir - Servant leadership, balancing influence and ego

This is the twelfth and last phase in the Double Healix model, the Elixir. After the profound transformation in the previous phase, you can reap the benefits of your journey and distribute them in the larger community. Often it's not about what you do, but about the radiance of purification, gentleness, and being relatively free of fear to do what is important. The competences that you need in this phase are: helpfulness...

The Elixir

Competences in the Elixir phase

13. Allround leadership

We have now gone through the 12 phases of the Double Healix model for all-round leadership development, and illustrated and discussed the competences that are important in each phase. This model will help you recognise which competences you can develop further, and when it would be better to employ someone else who has the qualities that are needed in a particular phase. Hopefully, the many examples from movies, question...

14. Module 3 - Strategy and Ethics at the Top: Angela Merke

In this chapter, we will explore the journey Angela Merkel has made, from her childhood to 2019. It is a journey of female leadership from which we can learn a lot. We will follow the phases of the Double Healix model chronologically, and for each phase we will discuss the competences that Angela Merkel shows us, and has shown us throughout the years. Her journey corresponds with the Double Healix cycle discussed before....

The Mentor (and Mentorcide)

The Selection Threshold

Star for a Day

Call to Adventure

The Prologue

Resistance to Change

Return to the Light


Reversal of Fortune

The Dagger



15. Epilogue of this course

After the explanation of the 12 phases in the circle of leadership development, and the many examples of Female Leaders, we have come to the end of this course.

Do you want to learn more and be inspired by film clips? That's possible!

Last exercise


Numbers of reviews: 7

A source of knowledge, wisdom, inspiration and female leaders

Maartje Grond | Trainer and Facilitator

The program offers powerful and inspiring images of a broad range of prominent female role models. All modules make the connection to leadership competences which are placed in the context of society. Rigorous in content, playful and insightful for my personal leadership development. Very enriching and innovative!

Broadening Horizons

Zina | Operational Limit & Fee Officer

As a participant in the "Ladies in the Lead: Learning from Female Leaders" course, I embarked on a journey with high hopes of delving into the diverse and dynamic world of female leadership. The premise was promising, offering an opportunity to glean insights from the experiences and wisdom of women at the helm of various fields. However, my enthusiasm was tempered by a glaring oversight that permeated the entirety of the course – a lack of representation and recognition of women leaders beyond the confines of America and Europe. The course, while commendable in its intention to celebrate and analyze female leadership, fell short in its scope and inclusivity. It predominantly centered on narratives of white American and European women, relegating the contributions and achievements of women from other regions to mere footnotes. This Eurocentric and Americentric lens not only perpetuated a limited worldview but also eroded the richness and diversity inherent in global female leadership Throughout the duration of the course, I couldn't shake the feeling of dissonance between the discussions and the reality I know. As a participant hailing from the Middle East, I keenly felt the absence of voices that resonate with my own experiences and struggles. The course scarcely touched upon the remarkable endeavors of women leaders from regions like the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, who have left an indelible mark on history through their resilience, activism, and innovation. The oversight is particularly striking when considering the plethora of influential figures that populate the landscape of female leadership outside the Western sphere. From Nawal El Saadawi's pioneering feminist discourse in Egypt to Queen Rania's advocacy for education and women's rights in Jordan, and from the groundbreaking architectural designs of Zaha Hadid to the poetic prowess of artists like Forough Farrokhzad in Iran, there exists a treasure trove of stories waiting to be explored and celebrated. Furthermore, the course missed a crucial opportunity to dismantle stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding women in regions often marginalized or misrepresented in mainstream discourse. By amplifying the voices and achievements of women from diverse cultural backgrounds, the course could have fostered a more nuanced understanding of leadership that transcends geographical boundaries. finally , it was a wonderful journey in this course , was a reminder of the collective success of women in leadership roles worldwide. While I yearned for a more inclusive portrayal of female leadership, witnessing the strides made by women across different continents was undeniably inspiring. As we continue to advocate for greater representation and diversity in leadership narratives, let us celebrate the successes of women from all backgrounds and pave the way for a more equitable future.

Clear and reflective

Charlot Teng | Urban Geographer, Yoga teacher

The journey of the heroine in the Double Healix model provides, because it is so visual, recognizable insights, triggers memories and encourages to honestly look at your own areas for development, including offering ways to tackle those development needs. My biggest insights so far occurred in the phase of Resurrection; I had been using some of the leadership competencies from that phase in my practice, yet this phase of the Double Healix model helped me clearly see the coherence of the various leadership interventions. In the beginning of the journey I first missed establishing and agreeing on clear values and principles that one can later fall back upon and creating support from strong allies. I think those are important tools as well.

A source of knowledge, wisdom, inspiration and female leaders

Maartje Grond | Trainer and Facilitator

The program offers powerful and inspiring images of a broad range of prominent female role models. All modules make the connection to leadership competences which are placed in the context of society. Rigorous in content, playful and insightful for my personal leadership development. Very enriching and innovative!

A treasure trove of learning opportunities!

Annelijn Steenbruggen | Journalist

This online course Ladies in the Lead: Learning from Female Leaders is a win-win: the use of touching, funny and compelling movie images creates an experience of both learning and entertainment. The course provides a treasure trove of learning opportunities. It helped me reflect on my own leadership and develop to my next level, but it was also a deep dive into world history. The course was a wake-up call for me about the necessity of equality and female leadership. Brave and visionary women sowed the seeds of change which I reap the benefits of today. The course made me aware of the fact that I need to be awake and alert to gender injustice and inequality and that it makes me stronger when I stand up against those. Thought provoking and fun. In short: highly recommended!

For everyone!

Maria Berkenveld | Director

What an amazing course. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot! I truly recommend this course!


blecourt | Program Manager Strategy Care

Perfect combination of learning content (images, sound, text) and good Tone of Voice! Learning impact guaranteed by the use of great and diverse role models. Self-reflection by responding honestly and courageously to the powerful questions was a great bonus. Highly recommended! Stephanie de Blécourt

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