In her leadership style, Dorothy W. Cantor, PsyD, draws on a strength she believes is shared by many women: inclusiveness.
"Women are more likely to be inclusive because we use it with our dealings within the family," says Cantor, a mother of two and grandmother to seven. "We tend to be able to listen to and incorporate others' points of view."
In fact, her ability to build consensus and pay attention to others has impressed people her entire life. "From the time I was I kid, every time I belonged to an organization, I ended up being president," she explains.
In the psychology world, she has served as student body president of Rutgers University's Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, and as president of the New Jersey Psychological Association, the American Psychological Foundationand APA.
In her private practice in Westfield, N.J., Cantor helps her clients, many of whom are women, build relationships, balance work and family, and assert themselves in the workplace.
From listening to her clients, Cantor has come to the conclusion that though women enjoy more equality in the workplace, discrimination is still widespread. "Women still tell me that they'll put an idea out on the table in a room full of men and the idea is ignored," she says. "But five minutes later, a man brings up the same idea and everyone jumps on it."
Women's issues have always been important to Cantor, who has written or edited six books and many articles on and for women, including "Finding Your Voice: A Woman's Guide to Using Self-Talk for Fulfilling Relationships, Work, and Life" (Wiley, 2004) and "Women in Power: The Secrets of Leadership" (Houghton Mifflin, 1992).
One of her peak leadership moments came as APA president in 1996, a time when psychology was embroiled in its earliest battles against managed care. Cantor had what was then a unique idea: Bring together the nation's associations of mental health providers to develop a unified statement about the threats managed care posed to patients and their therapists. It was the first time such organizations as APA, the American Psychiatric Association and the National Association of Social Workers spoke with one voice.
The result was the document "Your Mental Health Rights," which among other goals, sought to ensure quality mental health care by securing patient confidentiality and choice of provider.
"We don't know how much the document influenced the Clinton administration's own Consumer Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, but we think it did," says Cantor. "It certainly was distributed widely enough."
The coup was just one example of how her inclusive leadership style can affect major change. But when coalition-building doesn't work on its own, Cantor relies on her intelligence, her charm and if all else fails, "I flirt," she says. "It's not my first instinct. [But] you use what you have to reach the goal. And even at my age, I can still do it."