The enhancement of mechanical properties is of great importance for the modern steels design. By adopting the conventional strengthening mechanisms, strength can increase substantially, albeit at the expense of formability. In the present work, we propose a new pathway to overcome the strength-ductility trade-off by employing a novel short-range ordering (SRO) strengthening concept. The formation of the SRO in an Al-alloyed high-Mn steel was investigated by means of a combined method of ab initio calculations and various experimental approaches, e.g. in-situ high-energy synchrotron X-ray diffraction (SYXRD) and small angle neutron scattering (SANS). The results for the first time prove the presence of SRO in Fe-Mn-Al-C lightweight steels experimentally. The quantum mechanics based ab initio calculations provide an explanation of the SRO formation mechanism in Fe-Mn-Al-C steels. By an appropriate SRO formation control, the strength and ductility are enhanced either individually or simultaneously, which distinguishes the SRO strengthening concept from other conventional strengthening mechanisms. This SRO strengthening concept seems a promising strategy to overcome the strength-ductility trade-off and be further adopted in the current available continuous annealing production lines in the industry.