Sue was part of the planning group for an inaugural festival in Leicester recently, celebrating all things female, and it made her realise just how much can be achieved when a diverse set of people come together and pool their collective talents.
A bunch of friends have a chat and decide it would be great to celebrate the strengths, creativity and wit of women across Leicestershire. We wanted to focus on the diversity, unity and talents of local women. Six months later, with no budget, we ran a successful festival with key-note speakers from both private and public sectors, a diverse range of women’s stalls and performances from cutting-edge comedians, musicians and singers.
So, what was the key to our success (apart from the obvious… that we’re all women and good at organising!)? It was down to empowering everyone to be accountable for what they committed to. We trusted each other to actually deliver what we promised, without the need to have one person managing or leading overall. Obviously there were regular catch-ups on progress, key decisions to make and event logistics to manage. However, we maintained fun, humour and sisterhood throughout… ably assisted by copious amounts of cake!
Each group member had a key event theme, whether that was sourcing speakers/performers, finding a venue and stall holders, or marketing and promotion and we played to our individual strengths for these tasks. In fact, you could say that we were all leaders in our own right. A group of leaders. As the theory states, collective leadership is based on the assumption that ‘everyone can and should lead’¹ and we were a perfect example of putting this into practice. We unleashed our creative talents and the sum of the whole achieved more diversity in speakers, more inclusivity in audience attendance and more celebration of women’s achievements than any one of us would have accomplished alone.
The uppermost feeling as the festival finished (apart from sheer exhaustion) was the pride that, ‘we did this. We achieved something from nothing’. Our sheer determination to make the festival a success sustained us throughout the months of planning. As a group of women, we stretched our capabilities and pushed ourselves beyond our comfort zones and the euphoria of achieving success makes me ask myself how much more I could achieve at work as well. Luckily for me Rambutan also works collectively, so maybe I have a head start.
Onwards and upwards to next year’s festival. It’s no longer a one-off event, it’s an annual festival. Now how can we make it even more inspirational?
¹Stephen Preskill and Stephen D. Brookfield, Learning as a Way of Leading: Lessons from the Struggle for Social Justice