Innovation + Feminism = Leadership by @theflyways

Innovation + Feminism = Leadership
Photo courtesy of The American Repertory Theater

by Hillary Strobel | Featured Contributor

Ladies, I’ve been talking a good game about innovation and bringing the feminism movement into the 21st century. Now I want to talk about the opportunities for leadership and how to find them.

I know I do this too. We tend to think about leadership in terms of being the boss. We think about it in terms of telling (or showing) other people what to do in a specific situation. Sure, these folks are leading other people, but there are some very rich areas we can mine for leadership that have nothing to do with being at the top of the pile with all the answers. Leadership certainly does not have to mean doing something 24/7, either.

Leaders come from all strata and contexts. They are the people who understand the gap between what is and what could be. They lead people through that gap effectively, by demonstrating what’s possible. It’s about contemplation and reflection. Perfect for the ladies of the evolution!

So let’s talk about that gap.

I highly recommend the +Acumen online course Adaptive Leadership: Mobilizing for Change, which has given me a wonderful platform for this article. Here’s a quick recap.

Too often, we feel like we need to be constantly “on the dance floor,” down in the mix, always on, always making something happen. There’s nothing wrong with this, by any stretch, because it’s really fun to be on the dance floor. There is real magic happening, to be sure.

We forget to sit down once in a while, what +Acumen calls “getting on the balcony.” This position gives you the opportunity to survey the dance floor, to observe the dancers and their interactions, to catch your breath and contemplate what you were just in the middle of. When you’re up there in the balcony, “for now, just sit… Don’t try to ‘solve’ anything yet. That desire to leap to action is itself a subtle dance floor pressure.”

This is your moment to deeply reflect on the dance floor itself and what everyone is doing. This is the time to notice the patterns and dynamics, the trends and the action, and to create new strategies, possibilities, and choices.

Don’t sit up there all day, though.

The job of leaders who spend this time in contemplation is to turn it into fundamental change. You’ve taken the time to find the gap between what is and what could be by watching the dance floor. Now, you must lead. Before it seems like I’m exhorting you to get up in front of the world with a megaphone and do something, let me explain adaptive leadership.

The gap between what is and what could be is a mysterious place. It’s full of opportunities for creativity and for absolutely wild thinking. We aren’t just test driving new cars, we are inventing new modes of travel. We are rethinking the ways that people are mobile, because we’ve reflected on why they are mobile.

The creative tension, the constant seeking and exploring, this is leadership. Keeping the spark alive for exploration and invention, this is leadership. Every little moment of encouraging a new and exciting future is leadership. It’s adaptive leadership because the opportunity is always in motion and there is no end moment when creativity is exhausted.

Bringing it home to feminism.

This brings me back to the idea of innovating the feminism movement. We’ve been on the dance floor for a long time. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. But let us all sit down for a moment, on the balcony, and look at this women’s dance from a new perspective. Are we really, truly finding these creative gaps?

Feminism in the future is going to look very different from how it has looked in the past. We must grasp the opportunity to get very creative about it—in fact, I believe the time has come to reframe the entire discussion.

Are we interested in carving out equality in the world we’ve inherited? This world is deeply flawed, deeply inequitable, deeply troubled. Perhaps we ought to look at the creation of entirely new systems that can flourish in the gaps. When I think of what could be, I think of something we co-created, not something we fought like hell just to be included in.

Frankly, I don’t want “equal rights” bestowed upon me by a damaged system. I want a new system that is inclusive from day one, not just of me but of my family that includes transgendered people and women of color and elderly people and military veterans and Middle Eastern people and… I hope you get the idea.

So please join me for a very refreshing drink on the balcony and let’s take a few moments to find the creative gaps, and envision what the world could be. What glories are coming!


Hillary StrobelHillary Strobel is a single mother, fierce learner and teacher, ardent lover of life, and the ass-kickin’ President and CEO of The Flyways, Inc. We publish story projects that are interactive and highly creative, and 25% of profits are donated to support social justice causes: from business incubators serving vulnerable women, to agencies working to reduce recidivism rates.

Hillary also runs a consultancy for businesses and organizations seeking to meaningfully build social impact programs from the ground up. The three pillars that support this mission are: designing outcomes and developing goals, measuring impact and creating a universal metric, and quantifying results to the public.

After a long and varied career in just about every kind of Liberal Arts field imaginable, and in every type of job — volunteer, employee, entrepreneur, non-profit worker, and freelancer — Hillary has decided to marry her two deepest passions: storytelling and social justice. The results have surpassed her wildest expectations.

Follow Hillary on Social Media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Medium


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