THE BLOG
09/11/2013 12:05 am ET | Updated Nov 10, 2013

Visionary Product or Visionary Leadership: Can't a Female Entrepreneur Have Both?

"I wasn't a visionary but I literally had my finger on the pulse of the women of America."
- Pat Benatar

"The visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper and re-imagines the world."
- Malcolm Gladwell

As a New Yorker who actually knew people both injured and forever lost in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, today, 9/11/13, is a solemn day of reflection for me. I am taking time to think about my entrepreneurial mission to do work that matters, and to balance humanity with technology in today's competitive, increasingly chaotic, and emotionally grueling startup culture. I spent part of yesterday, 9/10/13, like many others, trying to catch snippets of the big reveals from the Apple event in Cupertino. As an educational technology consultant who gives specialized national seminars about iOS App integration into school curriculums, especially for special education, I was on tenterhooks. As a startup female entrepreneur trying to follow the trending patterns re: disruptive innovation, I am particularly intrigued by Apple goings-on and press releases.

It seems that many were intrigued as well, and were guessing right up until the end. The two most interesting educated guesses came from 9-5 Mac.com and Gizmodo respectively. I find it more interesting to re-read their perceptions and forecasts, rather than all the recaps of what was actually revealed. Hindsight provides insight into the human condition, and these articles provided us with a collective wishlist with which to compare and contrast our own needs and wants with the reality of what is: here and here.

Apple has a history of producing both visionary products like the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, and producing visionary leadership by providing opportunities for people to use its products to collaborate, innovate, and revolutionize the way they live their lives and interact with others. It boils down to emotional attunement, i.e., Theory of Mind, a term coined by neuropsychologists, which refers to one's perspective and empathy. Apple is so popular because of its visual aspect (design excellence, ease of use, etc.) and its visionary aspect (trailblazer, etc.). Steve Jobs himself was a true visionary, who left a legacy and perhaps even an actual blueprint for others to follow. His entrepreneurial success story, and underdog, innovative company has now become a behemoth in the technological arena, while still retaining the human factor, the human connection and sentient ability to harness time.

Apple's timing is impeccable, from unveiling new products to great marketing ads that directly appeal to a person's Theory of Mind, to giving thought leaders relevance, creative outlets, and strategies and tools to promote change. Time management on the individual level has also become easier and more efficient, thanks to the artistic, functional, and user-friendly interfaces of beloved Apple products. It's all about patterns; design, use, execution, and distribution.

I believe in patterns, not random acts in the universe that "just happen." It is no coincidence that 12 years ago, 9/11 occurred, and 6 years ago, half of that, the first iPhone was launched. That year, the lines between personal/private and public/political photography blurred yet again. The catalyst was 9/11. War correspondents and photographers have been around for decades; just look at Life Magazine. Yet September 11, 2001 put the average person, if he/she was in the right place at the right time, front and center of the "action." Anyone who could take a photo, and post it online, could then become an official storyteller for others. In my opinion, the aftermath of 9/11 was not only the obvious social, psychological, economical, historical, and political repercussions we all know and/or read about.

One of the largest outcomes was the incubation of new soldiers in the tech Revolution, in a petri dish called "The Millennial Generation." Many Millenials were children experiencing the aftermath of 9/11, which forever changed the way we treat travel, global economies, and national security. They are also becoming the largest marketing demographic and group of entrepreneurs to date, because of their intrinsic understanding of how the Tech Revolution is intersecting with the Entrepreneurial Revolution.

Is is any wonder the new iPhones will have Touch ID for security reasons, and "auto image stabilization" for the internal cameras?

This new zeitgeist has resulted in pivoting technology trends, especially re: social media, and the embedding of social entrepreneurship into an entrepreneur's mission statement, especially for women. We women now have resources at our disposal, from collaboration opportunities becoming more of the norm at work, to reverse mentorship from Millenials re: disruptive innovation, to produce both visionary products and visionary leadership. We can actually have both, if we step up to the plate to share our understanding that the human connection trumps technology, which is really just a tool to enhance quality of life and economic innovation.

In Good to Great, author Jim Collins writes, "When used right, technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it. The good-to-great companies never began their transitions with pioneering technology, for the simple reason that you cannot make good use of technology, until you know which technologies are relevant." This was written in 2001, the same year our national identity and self awareness forever changed, and years before the tech-boom and social media movement!

In Pamela Slim's Escape From Cubicle Nation, she writes about the concept of a Vision Board, to help a startup entrepreneur break down and understand his/her goals. Her book certainly gave me a different perspective about the components of my own mission. To me it was not new. It's something that the world of education, particularly special education involving children with autism, understands. Because life is all about visualizing outcomes and connecting the dots. Steve Jobs said it best. He said "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you will have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something."

As I look back on this day, and ponder my future, I do trust in many things. I trust in the inherent goodness of people, despite having lived through 9/11 and its aftermath. I trust in a person's ability to visualize, customize, and actualize their viewpoint on how to make life better for others. It's why the artistic, individualistic, and visual brevity and scope of Apple products appeal to me; as both an entrepreneur and a human being.