Embracing Your Feminine Traits in Leadership – and Your Career
Imagine if we could redefine leadership to truly be more inclusive. To embrace different styles and definitions of success that allowed for everyone to show up as their most authentic selves and lead from that place. How would the leadership of our companies, governments and communities change if people - especially women - were enabled and encouraged to embrace the philosophy that who you are is how you lead, and all leadership styles are welcomed and celebrated?
For so long we have been leading only in the masculine. It’s what our organisations, power structures, success models, and many (ok, most) of our societal structures are based on.
You may recognise the masculine around you and indeed in you. Qualities like drive, independence, competitiveness and confidence are all traits that a large body of research associates with the masculine (regardless of gender). And it doesn’t take much searching to see them everywhere, in men and in women. These are not bad traits of course, we need them and they are especially powerful when they are in balance with the feminine; traits like empathetic, expressive, vulnerable and nurturing.
But far too often, we have let the masculine go into overdrive and we have suppressed our feminine traits almost to the point of extinction.
It’s not so surprising is it really? Just look around you.
We see so often that if you want to be powerful, succeed and control your own destiny, then you need to drive, hustle, strive and push hard to rise (and sometimes, to even survive).
It’s one of the reasons why in the past we have seen so few female role models who are not just another version of a man, sometimes even more masculine, which can leave women feeling that there is no way for them to be successful if they don’t become ‘that version’ of success.
But what if there were a new definition of leadership? What if the best leadership role models weren’t revered and rewarded on their levels of aggression and dominance, but on their empathy and vulnerability?
What if self-interest changed to collaboration?
What if love was the operating language of leadership instead of fear?
What if those traits that women have long been penalised for as being too soft, became the most valued and sought-after traits that all leaders wanted to emulate?
Welcome to modern leadership. Welcome to a new world of work, careers, empowerment and pathways for women.
Truly conscious leaders have the capacity to call on positive feminine and masculine qualities regardless of their gender, and they are also aware of the negative aspects of each. This isn’t to say that this idea is yet mainstream, but we believe - and so do a growing number of researchers and leaders – that it will be, and many progressive organisations and government leaders are actively embodying it.
Perhaps no one stands out more in recent times than Jacinda Ardern, the 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand. Jacinda first hit the global spotlight for her leadership in response to the terrorist attack on two mosques that devastated New Zealand in 2019. And during the coronavirus pandemic, arguably the largest test of political leadership the world has ever witnessed, she became a beacon of light for what a new model of leadership truly looks like.
Her empathy, vulnerability, humility and compassion, coupled with directness, clear communication and decisive action demonstrate in brilliant ways what modern leadership, balancing feminine and masculine traits, looks like in the real world.
So why is this important for you as a woman?
Think about how you show up at work each day. No matter your role, reflect on your style, and which values and traits are at the forefront of your behaviours and actions.
Are you leading with feminine traits, masculine traits or a balance of both?
Does how you are showing up reflect who you truly are, or are you putting on a mask and wearing a cloak of armour to behave how you think you should and conforming to what an outdated model of successful leadership looks like?
And how do you get to the optimal mix of traits for your authentic style? As with any form of transformation, we start with self-awareness.
The feminine and masculine capacities of each of us – regardless of gender – can be experienced in a balanced state, or in a hypo/hyper state.
Feminine traits and energies include receptivity, adaptability, intuition, creativity, beauty, flow, nurturing, affection, sharing, patience, vulnerability, empathy, inclusion, openness, trust and harmony. When in balance, these traits are a gift. But when in their hyper feminine or immature state, these feminine qualities can manifest in undesirable ways such as being dependent, needy, unfocused, irrational, weak and manipulative.
Similarly, positive masculine attributes include freedom, direction, logic, reason, focus, integrity, structure, stability, passion, independence, strength, clarity, discipline, confidence, awareness, discernment, assertiveness, order and convergence. In their hyper state, masculine qualities can manifest as aggressive, cruel, mechanical, arrogant, insensitive, power hungry, or spiritually empty.
The work we are invited to do as women is to bring our attention to where we are in and out of balance with our traits, which traits are serving us or stopping us, and how we can cultivate the right mix of energies to support our growth, intentions and goals.
- When you look at your own leadership style and the way you show up each day, which traits are you leading with?
- What is the balance of your masculine and feminine traits?
- Is this mix working well for you, or do you need to dial up/dial down certain traits and values?