The Rise of Feminine Leadership: Embracing the New Way
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of feminine leadership at work. Feminine leadership emphasises qualities such as empathy, intuition, inclusivity, and collaboration, and it offers a powerful alternative to traditional masculine leadership styles that emphasise control, competition, and hierarchy.
There are many research studies that show how feminine leadership is gaining momentum and it has significant potential to create positive change in the world, particularly for women, for how we work and how we lead.
THE NEED FOR A NEW LEADERSHIP PARADIGM
Traditional leadership models have tended to prioritise masculine traits and values – those typically associated with assertiveness, competitiveness, independence, and rational thinking. These traits have been highly valued in traditional leadership models. However, feminine traits have been overlooked and undervalued in leadership roles.
This has led to a culture that values competition over collaboration, control over empowerment, and hierarchy over inclusivity. These traditional models have been successful in many respects, but they have also led to numerous problems, including a lack of diversity, a focus on short-term gains over long-term sustainability, and a disregard for the wellbeing of people and the planet.
We need a new leadership paradigm. Climate change, economic inequality, social injustice, and a changing business landscape are just a few of the issues that demand a new approach to leadership. Feminine leadership offers a solution to these challenges by emphasising traits that put people at the centre of work and bring a more human face to leadership.
LEADERSHIP TRAITS BEYOND GENDER
Recent research has highlighted the importance of recognising that both feminine and masculine traits can be exhibited by individuals of any gender. While historically, certain traits have been associated with specific genders, it is important to avoid gender essentialism and recognise that these traits are not exclusive to one gender.
A study published in the Journal of Organisational Behavior found that men who exhibited high levels of traditionally feminine traits, such as empathy, were perceived as more effective leaders by their employees. Similarly, women who exhibited traditionally masculine traits, such as assertiveness, were perceived as more effective leaders by their colleagues.
Another study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior found that both men and women who exhibited a combination of masculine and feminine traits tended to have higher job satisfaction and better mental health.
While there is limited research specifically on non-binary individuals and leadership traits, there is growing recognition of the unique experiences and perspectives that non-binary individuals can bring to the workplace. A study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology found that non-binary individuals may be more likely to value authenticity and self-expression in the workplace, which could potentially contribute to a more inclusive and supportive work environment.
Overall, these studies suggest that individuals who exhibit a combination of both feminine and masculine traits can be effective leaders and may experience greater job satisfaction and well-being. Embracing a range of traits can lead to better outcomes in the workplace and beyond.
THE UPSIDE FOR WOMEN
Recent research has emphasised the importance of recognising and embracing feminine traits in leadership, especially for women. But traditionally, feminine traits at work and in leaders have been undervalued and associated with weakness. As a result, women have often felt the pressure to reject these traits in order to conform to traditional masculine leadership styles that emphasise control, competition, and hierarchy.
However, research has suggested that women may be more likely to possess certain feminine traits associated with effective leadership. For example, women tend to score higher than men on measures of emotional intelligence and empathy, which are important traits for building relationships and understanding the needs of others.
By embracing these inherent feminine traits, women can lead more authentically and effectively. Instead of feeling the pressure to conform to traditional masculine leadership styles, women can prioritise empathy, vulnerability and flexibility, creating a more inclusive and innovative workplace.
EMBRACING FEMININE LEADERSHIP
Feminine leadership is not just about women leading. It is about embracing a new way of leading that values a broader range of traits and qualities. Everyone, regardless of gender, has the potential to embrace feminine leadership and tap into their natural strengths.
Here are a few of the characteristics of feminine leadership traits:
- Empathy: Leaders who exhibit empathy are better able to understand and respond to the needs of their employees. They listen to their concerns and create a supportive environment that fosters well-being and engagement. For example, an empathetic leader may provide flexible work arrangements or mental health resources to support their team members.
- Collaboration: Leaders who prioritise collaboration are able to build stronger relationships and foster innovation within their teams. They encourage open communication, idea-sharing, and feedback, which can lead to new insights and solutions. For example, a collaborative leader may organise cross-functional teams or brainstorming sessions to bring diverse perspectives to a problem.
- Inclusivity: Leaders who value diversity and inclusivity create a welcoming environment where everyone feels valued and respected. They prioritise creating opportunities for people of different backgrounds and experiences to contribute and thrive. For example, an inclusive leader may implement policies and practices that reduce bias and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Intuition: Leaders who trust their intuition are better able to make decisions that align with their values and the needs of their team and organisation. They rely on their own judgment and experience to guide their choices, rather than following a set of rigid rules. For example, an intuitive leader may decide to take a risk on a new project or pivot their strategy based on their instincts.
- Flexibility: Leaders who exhibit flexibility are able to adapt to changing circumstances and respond to the needs of their employees. They are open-minded and willing to try new approaches, which can lead to better outcomes. For example, a flexible leader may offer remote work options or adjust their work schedules to accommodate their team's needs.
- Vulnerability: Leaders who express vulnerability are able to build trust and authenticity with their team members. They acknowledge their weaknesses and imperfections, which can create a more supportive and inclusive environment. For example, a vulnerable leader may admit to making a mistake and work with their team to find a solution, rather than trying to cover it up or blame others.
STRATEGIES FOR EMBRACING FEMININE LEADERSHIP
Embracing feminine leadership can be a powerful way to create a more inclusive and effective workplace.
Here are some tips on how to embody feminine leadership:
Be Authentic: Authenticity is a key value in feminine leadership. This means being true to yourself and your values, and communicating openly and honestly with your team. When you are authentic, you build trust and credibility, and people are more likely to follow a leader they can trust.
Embrace Collaboration: Feminine leadership values collaboration and teamwork. Encourage open communication and create a safe space for people to share their ideas and opinions. Emphasise the importance of listening and being open to different perspectives. By collaborating effectively, you can build stronger relationships and foster innovation within your team.
Prioritise Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence is a critical aspect of feminine leadership. It involves being aware of your own emotions and those of others, and using that knowledge to build positive relationships. Prioritise emotional intelligence in your leadership style by demonstrating empathy, active listening, and constructive feedback. Encourage your team to do the same.
Practice Inclusivity: Feminine leadership values inclusivity and diversity. Encourage inclusivity in your team by creating a safe and welcoming environment for people of different backgrounds and experiences. Emphasise the importance of respecting differences and promoting equality. This can include implementing policies and practices that reduce bias and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Foster Creativity and Innovation: Feminine leadership encourages creativity and innovation. Emphasise the importance of experimentation and taking risks. Encourage your team to think outside the box and come up with new ideas. This can include organising brainstorming sessions, experimenting with new processes or tools, and creating opportunities for cross-functional collaboration.
Lead with Vulnerability: Leaders who express vulnerability are able to build trust and authenticity with their team members. They acknowledge their weaknesses and imperfections, which can create a more supportive and inclusive environment. For example, a vulnerable leader may admit to making a mistake and work with their team to find a solution, rather than trying to cover it up or blame others.
By embracing these feminine leadership traits, including leading with vulnerability, you can create a more supportive, inclusive, and innovative workplace that benefits both employees and the organisation as a whole.
THE FUTURE OF LEADERSHIP
The rise of feminine leadership represents a fundamental shift in how we think about leadership. It offers a powerful alternative to traditional masculine models that have prioritised competition and control over collaboration and inclusivity. By embracing feminine leadership, we can create a more sustainable and equitable world that creates better workplaces for all, more gender balanced and inclusive workplaces, and more women rising.
If you’re interested in learning how to become a more confident and authentic leader and tap into your feminine traits, this is something we teach in Module 4 of the Women Rising program (and in the aligned Male Allies program). You can read more about our curriculum and how it could benefit you, or the women in your organisation, today. Register for our March 2024 cohort, we’d love for you to join us.
By Megan Dalla-Camina, Women Rising Founder & CEO