Leading from the Margins: Lessons Learned in Leadership

Leading from the Margins: Lessons Learned in Leadership

The recent Changemakers Insight Series webinar featured Dr. Mary Dana Hinton, President of Hollins University and author of Leading from the Margins.  President Hinton joined Rosye Blancas Cloud to discuss her book and work as a leader. Rooted in her personal experiences, Leading from the Margins challenges traditional leadership theories and emphasizes the value of diverse voices. “As I think about what a courageous leader means, I begin to believe that 'one who guides from the heart' might be a compelling way to define the phrase”, said Dr. Hinton. President Hinton aims to inspire emerging leaders to fully embrace their authentic selves and lead from the core of their being. 

The two leaders discussed the necessity of authenticity in the workplace. President Hinton emphasized the importance of vulnerability in leadership, challenging the assumption that it equates to weakness. Instead, President Hinton posited that clarity of purpose and authenticity are essential for effective leadership: “The work is going to get done, but when you only try to see one slice of a human being, you are not seeing everything that they need or everything they can bring to the table.” Ms. Cloud agreed that suppressing one’s authentic self does nothing for the greater good of the organization, underscoring the need to balance authenticity and professional expectations imposed by societal norms.

President Hinton and Ms. Cloud also discussed the complexities of leadership, including financial barriers to career progression and balancing authenticity with organizational norms. “It’s important for us to talk about the messy journey, what it means to be on the margins." Both women underscored the necessity of building strong ecosystems, mentors, and allies and fostering diversity and inclusion in leadership circles.

President Hinton explores "cheat codes" that perpetuate inequality, and advocates for transparency and fairness in leadership spaces to prevent individuals from the margins from being excluded simply on the basis of a lack of exposure to certain knowledge. Etiquette is a cheat code that can help or hinder career advancement. While etiquette is a great tool as Ms. Cloud notes, “The real sign of good etiquette is inclusion.” Not all cheat codes, forms of human and social capital, are universally taught, and they often depend on one's environment. For example, while some individuals may learn interview etiquette, appropriate attire, and how to successfully navigate between authenticity and professional culture, others may not receive this guidance. Both speakers acknowledged the necessity of etiquette coupled with their work in making the “cheat codes” more inclusive and accessible to those from the margins.

 President Hinton and Ms. Cloud articulated their shared vision of empowering the next generation of leaders. In the conversation, Ms. Cloud notes that “my intention for the boards that I sit on is to transform them to meet the needs of today." This entails diversifying boardrooms to reflect the diversity present in society and ensuring leadership representation from all walks of life, including leaders from the margins. Advancing and expanding opportunities for individuals from marginalized backgrounds involves understanding the reasons behind exclusive norms and making the necessary changes to foster more inclusive leadership.

Leading from the Margins has ignited a conversation that challenges conventional norms and inspires meaningful change. In this webinar, President Hinton proclaimed an overarching goal to “create more seats at the table so that I don't leave anyone behind." When navigating the complexities of leadership, it is essential to embrace authenticity and inclusivity to implement the change society needs.


To watch the webinar recording, click here.

Get a copy of President Hinton’s book here


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