The Sum Volume #8: Connect

“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis.

Welcome to the Sum, where I share my take on the meaning of sum of the week’s parts. I want your voice too. Leave comments here or @GloriaFeldt

My word of the week is CONNECT.

Actor Caileigh Scott and Wonder
Woman, um, me. Tell us
your superpower and we’ll
tell you how you can get
involved with Take The Lead
to reach gender parity in
leadership by 2025!

As in the world turns on human connections.

I must have said this tens of thousands of times over the course of my personal and professional life. It is without any doubt the most important leadership lesson I’ve learned over several decades as a CEO.

And I don’t mean it in a cynical “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” transactional way. Nor am I referring to the person with tens of thousands of superficial LinkedIn connections and time-sucking social media discussions (read this from Women@Forbesfor tips on how to stanch the flow), though somewhere within those 10,000 digital souls in your network there are bound to be a few meaningful links.

In fact, I am often pleasantly surprised at how valuable social media can be to forming professional relationships, especially where there is already a mutual connection or network of some sort. Continue reading “The Sum Volume #8: Connect”


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Leadership Video: Is this dance a movement or mob?

YouTube Preview Image

I love the virtual universe. In the blink of a mouse you can connect with a wide range of people who share your narrow set of interests. Social media Big Names like Seth Godin call this “finding your tribe.”

Tahrir Squares showed what happens when a tribe becomes a movement.

My friend Leslie Grossman, co-founder with Andrea March of the Women’s Leadership Exchange (I wrote about WLE in No Excuses as an example of power tool #7 CREATE A MOVEMENT), introduced me virtually last week to self-described “social media capitalist” Michelle Price.  Michelle, Leslie told me, helped WLE set up their new online program, and I wanted to learn more about the process and technology. I felt little prickles of excitement about this convergence.

On first e-mail, Michelle and I realized we have a tribal kinship. I resonated with her love of the leading edges of technology and she won my heart by saying my book should be sitting on every woman’s desktop. We share a mutual interest in thought leadership.

So what does one do when you meet someone new these days? Peruse her website of course. I found it full of interesting, fun, and thought provoking stuff.

One post called “Thought Leadership: How to Start a Movement and Get Your First Follower in 3 Minutes” featured the captivating video above. So I replayed it. The second time I watched, I realized I had a completely different take than the filmmaker. Here’s Michelle’s intro to the video:

So what does a 3 minute video on dancing have to do with thought leadership, launching a movement and getting YOUR first follower? Watch this video – it’s a study in human sociology at the least. You’ll see the “light of insight” flip on when you do.

One Video, Two Takes

According to the video’s narrator (with my reactions in italics):

1. A leader–in this case a guy who starts doing a weird dance solo on a grassy lawn with lot of people looking on–has to have the guts to look ridiculous.

(True, people who start movement tend to be boundary breakers.)

2. You must be easy to follow.

(I’m starting to furrow my brow because this misses the point that movements form to accomplish things too difficult for one person to do alone.)

3. The first follower has a crucial role—to publicly show the others how to follow. Calling to his friends to join in “transforms a nut into a leader.” The leader embraces him as an equal so the movement seems like it isn’t about the leader any more.

(OK, that makes sense. I’m rarely the first but am often an early adopter. Something doesn’t feel right though. Trying to “seem like it’s not about the leader” sounds manipulative–a hierarchy without acknowledging it.)

4. The third person to come in validates the first two: “a turning point—now it’s not a lone nut and then two nuts.” Three is a crowd, the voice-over says as the dancing becomes more fevered. A crowd makes it news—a movement must be public. People follow the followers not the leader.

(I notice that the first six people who join the dance are all men who have been invited in, and it isn’t till the seventh dancer that the first woman joins. I don’t want to kneejerk, but this looks more like a bunch of men creating a tribe of people with an emotional affinity than a movement with a shared purpose that systematically builds a coalition to get many diverse people involved to do things they couldn’t accomplish alone.)

5. As more people get up to dance, there comes a tipping point where it’s no longer risky to participate.  Those who join the dance “won’t stand out, they won’t be ridiculed.” It actually becomes more risky not to participate because holdouts would be ridiculed for not joining.  The moral of the piece is summed up like this: “When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.”

(Yes, yes, have the courage to stand up with the lone nut doing something great—but that’s not the same as creating a movement.)

The End of the Movement? (Or Did It Never Begin?)

By this time in the video, everyone is up, writhing together in one big dancing hive that makes me think of William Golding’s book Lord of the Flies, about schoolboys stranded on an island. They form a primitive culture that turns out none too kindly.

The dance ends, the paroxysm of togetherness is complete, everyone cheers.

And that is the end of this particular movement. Participants had a great experience, but then what? They have formed a tribe of people who share a momentary affinity to be sure. Nothing wrong with that. But that’s a mashup–a mob not a movement.

Now I realize what’s been bugging me about this video as a metaphor for leadership and starting a movement.

Instead of beginning with one person doing a weird thing, I think a movement is created when one person sees an injustice or problem and reaches out to another with the purpose of doing something about it. For example, the Civil Rights movement had many individual aha’s followed by people coalescing together. They had the courage to raise issues they believed needed to be addressed: to organize a sit-in and then to create a Freedom Ride that would eventually build to changing laws and minds. They know they are stronger together—they aren’t just being manipulated to join in the dance.  And they all share risks too.

Rosa Parks, for example, wasn’t just any woman who happened to get ticked off at being sent to the back of the bus. She had long been active in the NAACP and knew the ground had been well prepared to parlay her refusal to go to the back of the bus that day into a major bus boycott that would last for over a year. It certainly wasn’t easy for African Americans in the South to find other ways to get to work—that is if their employers didn’t fire them for participating in the boycott.

A movement might grow fast, as the video says, if leaders make it easy for others to join and invite them in as equals. And symbols and emotional connection are important elements. But the dance must have a shared purpose to be a movement. And as the group grows, leadership (which will come from many places) must create systematic ways to achieve its purpose or it will flail arms at the end like tired dancers who have enjoyed a catharsis with their tribe, but accomplished little else.

Tahrir Square would have been just another mob and its energies might quickly have turned destructive without that shared sense of purpose and dispersed leadership.

Then, to sustain itself, a movement has to move, to change when needed, to continue to focus its energy on its purpose in ways that meet people’s needs today and tomorrow.

Which of these two different perspectives one takes away from the nutty dancing guy metaphor in this video has profound implications for movements and for leaders.

I can’t wait to discuss this with my new tribemate Michelle when we have our first phone conversation later this week.  Meanwhile, watch the video a couple of times. It’s infinitely fascinating. What are your observations?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

How Did Women Advance in the Oughties?

Katha Pollitt, The Nation columnist and author of a new book of poetry, The Mind Body Problem asked a great question today on a media listserv we’re both on. She wanted to know what we thought were the places where women and/or feminism made advances, went backward, or were treading water.

How do you think women advanced during the last decade? (We can deal with the backward steps in another post…at the beginning of a new year and new decade, let’s start with a nod to the advances.)

Here are my two top-of-mind, unfiltered answers that I sent to Katha, mostly to the positive.

1. The rise of social media has given women the opportunity for a much bigger voice individually and collectively. The asynchronous, information-rich technology and the ability to create “rooms of one’s own” appeal to women who have for so long been overtalked by louder male voices. As a result women are over 50% of bloggers and 57% of the people on Facebook and Twitter. Social media offer a way to connect, share, find support systems, and organize. Women tend to isolate and think they have to solve their problems–often problems caused by systemic barriers–alone. But with social media, they can find answers to their questions and if they choose they can organize to solve problems whether in the private sector or politically. Having been recognized by advertisers as the purchasers of  over 80% of all consumer goods, women could also use their online and social media presence to reshape the consumer economy.

The bad news is that this power remains largely in the potential category because women have not used it strategically to mass their voices.  Power unused is power useless. This is the name of a chapter in the book I’m writing now and I am sad to say I have all too many examples.

2. Reproductive health advanced despite George W. Bush. A few of my personal fave highlights:

a) Mifepristone, the early abortion pill, was approved by the FDA in 2000 just before Bush was sworn in. This was an important political victory as well as giving women an option for very early pregnancy termination without surgery. Ostensibly Mifepristone would make abortion access more widespread, and it probably has but it definitely has not been the panacea some people assumed it would be. For the most part, it is only administered by doctors who were already performing abortions because its medical protocol requires that surgical abortion be available as a backup in case of an incomplete abortion via Mifepristone. Of course, anti-choice harassment and intimidation of doctors has also played a part in limiting access.

b) Plan B emergency contraception was FDA approved for over-the-counter use for women 18 and over in 2006. Increasing public knowledge about EC and easier access to it have been instrumental in lowering the rate of unintended pregnancy and abortion. Restrictions on over-the-counter EC for teens 17 and under are unnecessary, according to medical experts including the FDA’s own scientific advisory committees.

c) there have been a number of additions to the variety of birth control methods available to women and tweaks to older methods aimed at making them more palatable or effective.

d) Following on initiatives started in 1998 to get insurance plans to cover contraception, during the early “oughties”, the number of states requiring such coverage rose to 27. With that, plus the requirement that Federal employees’ insurance plans cover contraception starting in 1998 and several successful lawsuits challenging exceptions to contraceptive coverage within large self-insured company plans, contraceptive coverage went from rare to routine.

OK, your turn. Let’s talk about what you think the advances have been.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Is Social Media Your Best Leadership Toolkit?

While I was in Arizona recently, I spent some time with the Arizona State University School of Social Transformation folks brainstorming an online leadership certificate course for women that we intend to launch in the fall of 2010. We plan to use a social media platform to create an ever-growing network of contacts for the women who participate in the course.

I’d love to get your feedback on the idea and how you would use social media as a leadership toolkit to further your work. What are you wanting to know or learn to use? What social media do you think have the greatest promise for organizational or leadership effectiveness?

This video is jam-packed with data about the power of social media. Take a look. Do you agree with it?

YouTube Preview Image

Check out Joan Koerber-Walker’s blogpost “The End of the One-Way Street” where she offers more of her valuable thoughts on social media.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.