ColJill.dressuniformColonel Jill Morgenthaler (ret.) is a woman of many firsts. She was one of the first women to train as an equal with men in the inaugural Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program and one of the first to receive a four-year Army scholarship. She was one of the first female military intelligence commanders in the DMZ in South Korea and Germany (West Berlin), the first female battalion commander in the 88th Regional Support Command, and the first female brigade commander in the 84th Division.

After five years on active duty, she served for 25 years in the Army Reserves. Her operations included military intelligence in South Korea and West Berlin, disaster recovery during the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, peacekeeping in Bosnia, evacuation of Kosovar refugees, and public affairs for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition to two Humanitarian Service Medals, Colonel Morgenthaler received the Bronze Star for her leadership in Iraq in 2004 and the Legion of Merit for 30 years of extraordinary leadership performance upon her retirement in 2006.

As the first female Homeland Security Advisor for the State of Illinois, Colonel Morgenthaler directed homeland security operations and provided guidance to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, the Illinois National Guard, and other agencies for the prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery from natural disasters and incidents of terrorism.

Today, Colonel Morgenthaler is a professional speaker and author, exhilarating audiences with tales of her famous stare down with Saddam Hussein and other examples from her 30 years of service. She presents, consults, and trains on leadership, crisis communications, and homeland security. She is an adjunct professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Colonel Morgenthaler has a bachelor of arts from Pennsylvania State University, a master of arts from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and a master of strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.

She is the proud mother of a son and a daughter, and lives in the Chicago area with her husband.

1) Why is the topic of women and leadership important?

Women have proven to be great peacekeepers. We need more women leading to have a more peaceful world. Women leaders in business, government, education, the sciences, medicine, military and police services will result in more inclusive and diverse management. The focus will be on the future instead of on power.

2) Why do you think women hold themselves back in the boardroom?

Many women were taught at home and in school to be quiet, that their opinions weren’t important, and that acceptable assertiveness in men is label derogatory for women. Women need to first understand that they have gifts and are meant to share the gifts with the world. They must quiet the voices in their heads that tell them they are not worthy of leading. They must be willing to be uncomfortable as they seek to lead.

3) What lessons have you learned about the global women in business from your experience?

Every woman I have met wants to do good for her family, her community and her business. She wants a better future now and a more promising one for the young people following. If we could somehow harness the wisdom and compassion of every woman, we would make this world infinitely better.

4) What are your top 3 tips for women entrepreneurs?

When people tell you that you can’t do something, do it. Do it better than they could.
Stand up for yourself and others when bullies try to put you down and keep you down. They come from fear. You come from hope. As you journey to success, take others with you – women, minorities, people who are different from you. Humility is knowing you have weaknesses and others have strength to provide balance. Confidence is knowing that you have strengths that are necessary. Humility and confidence go hand in hand. (Oops – that may have been 4 tips.)

5) How can women improve their self confidence?

Review your strengths in the morning. Read books that reinforce your positive outlook. When feeling unsure, plant your legs shoulder width. Stand as straight as you can, look up and smile realizing that you are the right person, in the right place, at the right time, lower your head and smile at the world.

6) What is a good ice breaker in networking sessions?

I love asking people after they tell me what they do, “How did you come to do that?” The conversation flows from there.

7) What is your daily pick me up mantra for motivation?

Besides “I’m the right person, in the right place, at the right time,” I also say, “The world is a better place because I am in it.”

Ret. Colonel Jill Morgenthaler’s new book “The Courage To Take Command: Leadership Lessons From a Military Trailblazer.” Get a copy of her book here.

Watch her TED Talk and also her recent appearance on “Chicago Tonight.”