Flash: There Are No Obstacles, Only Opportunities!

Gloria Feldt
5 min readMay 2


Issue 227 — May 1, 2023

Tell me. What’s the biggest obstacle you have faced on your path to leadership?

Here’s a secret for you.

*There are no obstacles. Only opportunities.*

I had the honor of keynoting the Women & Worth Summit on April 26. I had been given this topic: “Leading with Intention: Overcoming Obstacles on the Path to Leadership.” I edited the title several times and every time, it came back to me and in print as originally written. But that phrasing wasn’t aligned with my authentic approach to leadership development.

So I decided to do what I teach women in leadership training — define my own terms.

Kange Kaneene, VP, SAP.io Foundries North& Latin America & Caribbean and I reflect on our mutual commitment to gender equality.

We can change that narrative that makes it seem like the obstacles drive us. I decided to use the opportunity of the keynote to share the message I wanted to deliver, because I sincerely believe it’s what women need to know to clarify and achieve their highest intention.

We can turn obstacles into opportunity with the power of Intentioning.

When I wrote my book, Intentioning: Sex, Power, Pandemics, and How Women Will Take the Lead for (Everyone’s) Good, I made up the word Intentioning to turn intention into an active verb, to signify the importance of taking action. Because as humorist Will Rogers said, even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

Laura Nix Gerson interviewed Lara Hodgson and Stacey Abrams, cofounders of Now Corp, who shared some great nuggets about how they worked together successfully.

Here are 3 lessons about Intentioning I’ve learned from a long career as a CEO, activist for gender equality, and Mom about how obstacles are actually opportunities.

First: It’s never the mountains that trip you up, it’s always the pebbles in your path. And there are always pebbles. Was there a time when you were rocking along thinking everything was going great and then boom?

My book starts with when that happened to me in the form of tripping over an actual pebble and boom! I broke my wrist.

I attended the Forbes 30/50 Summit in March. Summit chair and founder of Know Your Worth Mika Brzezinski must have said, “Failure is a stepping stone” a dozen times. She spoke from experience, having been fired at age 39 from her anchor job. She told her story to illustrate both the devastation of a humiliating fall and the positive growth that comes from it, if you’re willing to own it, learn its lessons, and use it to build your resilience muscles.

It can be hard to acknowledge failures, mistakes, setbacks. They might feel like obstacles but in each is always a pearl that can be turned into an opportunity — if we do what I call “Uncover yourself.” Face the areas where you feel you aren’t enough, own them, and use them as opportunities to create your own path.

Great leaders know themselves and show themselves.

I cannot speak without my hands.

Second: Every opportunity leads to the next obstacle. The solution to the problem changes the problem and you have to change with it. On the path to leadership, it is absolutely necessary to think differently, more conceptually, more metaphorically, and more broadly as we rise.

Many of the accomplished, intentioning women who spoke at the Summit shared their stories of growth in leadership that came when they felt called to solve a problem or follow a passion. For example, Shamina Singh, Founder and President of the Mastercard Center or Inclusive Justice, stated, “The idea that you separate philanthropic capital from business capital is not real.” And Marvina Robinson, who founded and leads Stuyvesant Champagne because she loved champagne.

Third: Intentioning isn’t always easy but it’s not complicated. It takes Vision, Courage, and Action. VCA is the acronym to remember. You might have heard me talk about my fear of suspension bridges and how I managed to cross 22 rickety suspension bridges on the Milford Track in New Zealand.

I had to set my vision firmly on where I wanted to go, my intention. Not look at the raging water below or the jagged rocks on the side. I had to have the courage of my conviction that I could get across. And I had to act — put one foot in front of the other until I reached the other side.

After crossing 22 suspension bridges, I never lost my fear. But I gained the knowledge that I could do it.

There are no obstacles, only opportunities.

Thanks to Laura Nix Gerson, director of Women & Worth and Jim McCann, founder of 1–800-flowers and chairman of Worth Media Group for an action-packed and substantive conference.

I crossed an even bigger bridge 10 years ago when I cofounded Take The Lead after I realized that if women don’t achieve parity in position, pay, and power, we’re doomed to keep fighting the same battles over and over.

The secret to reaching our leadership potential?

Embracing the power of Intentioning.

I am Intentioning to reach gender and racial parity in leadership while I’m alive to see it.

And we can. Because the obstacles women and all people of color face are our biggest opportunity. They have socialized us with empathy, the ability to read the room, to think before we make rash decisions, to listen and seek collaboration in decision making.

Those characteristics are why companies with more women in leadership are more profitable and countries with women leaders were more successful dealing with the pandemic.

This behavior is not hardwired. Women are not inherently better than men.

But those elements of female socialization that have traditionally seemed like obstacles are now our competitive advantage, our opportunities to lead ourselves and our sisters to equality.

Own it. Uncover it. Embrace it.

Make your vision big and bold.

Have Courage to believe you can do it.

And take action.

Make this the day you walk with intention on your path to leadership with confidence, authenticity, and joy.

*Love * those obstacles, cherish the opportunity to take them by the scruff of the neck and turn them into success on your path to leadership.

GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of five books, most recently Intentioning: Sex, Power, Pandemics, and How Women Will Take The Lead for (Everyone’s) Good. Honored as Forbes 50 Over 50 2022, and Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.



Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is a New York Times bestselling author and co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a nonprofit women’s leadership organization.