You don't have to be a woman to be a leader who embraces and shares the feminine aspect of leadership. You have to be someone who has as much heart for the betterment of other people as you have for the success of your department or company.
Once upon a time leadership was set up as emotionless and cold - based on numbers and self-protection. That hasn't worked out for us in any way. As individuals under this system, we have invited illness - alcoholism, physical ailments, anger, depression - as we have left our human mode of existence to become more machine-like in order to make all of the parts of a mechanistic system operate in tandem.
Human beings don't operate maximally in that way. Human beings intuitively and quite rightly don't trust that setup. One of the main breakdowns of this system is that humans cease to trust one another.
Trust and success go hand-in-hand. We humans don't "trust" numbers; we trust other people as a result of their empathy, humility, honesty and vulnerability. The question is: How do you come to embrace even one of these qualities in a business environment?
The answer is: start with attitude and move into action. Humility is the core attitude which brings the greatest change, so let's begin there.
The minute you question something with a mind open to receiving an unknown answer, you are upsetting the status quo.
That's a good thing. That's a leadership thing!
It will likely sound counterintuitive but the truth is that in imbalanced times we actually find the greatest opportunities for change. The door is open to new answers as the old answers start to flounder. We find those new answers through questioning.
Questioning is a powerful method of reminding oneself that the answers are not in the known experience, but in something other. Remember these three guidelines:
If past efforts and approaches had worked out, you wouldn't need to be questioning
Avoid trying the old solutions again.
If you are approaching the same problems in the same ways over and over again, you're not getting the message. So get the message that you need to look elsewhere, or with different eyes, if you are going to get to the perspective you need to invite in those answers which will work.
Collaboration takes the leader off the cross of perfectionism. Suddenly, she doesn't have to have every single answer. She doesn't have to posture, or mask her sense of self-doubt. Now, all she has to do is say, "Here is the situation. Tell me, what would you do?"
Good leadership asks that question.
Great leadership creates structures that make every single employee part of the answers.
Phenomenal leadership steps into the creative day-to-day of questioning, discovering, building relationships, and taking the adventure of building business together.
Our current corporate format is based literally on an army structure (the Prussian Army is the model for our early 19th Century setup of the organizational chart). As a result, the leader turns to the officer below her, and s/he turns to the officer below and so on, leaving all of the "Privates" - that is, the employees - out of conversation and input.
In so doing, we lose unimaginable amounts and types of creativity, problem-avoidance, problem-solving, and experiential wisdom. There is, in fact, a much better way.
Leave the Army to its business, and let's get to the business of human beings, which is what our businesses are truly made of.
By becoming a true leader - someone committed to human needs for involvement, respect, meaning - you begin to be the manager, the supervisor, who all of your employees can be honest with. Trust grows. Interdependence grows. Attrition shrinks and engagement grows.
Trust is key, and it is born of authentic connection from someone who stands on the front lines, so to speak, with you, rather than simply sending you into battle - a private without voice, feedback or contribution.
Or, we can continue to follow a structure that has one goal: to overcome or win.
A phenomenal leader knows that the winning comes before business success, and ensures it.
Not religion. Not a specific spiritual path. But spirituality, Goodness, care, compassion, letting go of fear, or at least letting in the light of care so that your leadership creates opportunities instead of lockdowns - connections instead of resentments.
Do you want lower attrition and higher engagement? More rules won't do it. The approaches that work are, I admit, counterintuitive. But the choice is a simple one of either using approaches that work, or going on with the "solutions" you have on hand, which continuously create the problems that keep you awake at night!
My July 4th post is incendiary, so I put it instead on Medium.com.
If you wish to read a call to your own internal freedom, the post is here. I stand for your freedom, my freedom, and the freedom of all of us to be our best selves, inside and out.
Note to the Women Leaders:
We've lost the feminine, and I am not talking crinolines and pinafores and blonde ringlets.
When it comes to leadership, what we are lacking in our mechanistic, masculine business worldview is empathy, actions, beliefs and perspectives that we can apply to ourselves as well as to those we are leading.
It's not anyone's fault that we are leading like men, but we are all doing it. That focus is what we have learned from our many years in corporations and businesses of all sizes.
But it's time to bring the feminine into business.
Are you old enough to remember when Jane Pauley hit the airwaves as a news anchor? I remember my response as being very mixed because I wasn't accustomed to seeing a woman anchor or hearing a feminine voice.
This is a call to self-awareness: are we Rambo-ing ourselves?
Energy going out - non-stop efforts - resulting exhaustion - getting back into the saddle and starting again.
Like pretty much everyone else, I know how to do business 'like men do it", which is to say that I know how to work hard, and I know the masculine perspective of "going for the goal" (or is it "gold"? I hear it both ways.), and not backing down, and I haven't had the insider's view from men friends at the so-called top about the other aspects of existing while business'ing.
Those other aspects are surprisingly feminine. Finding ways to get the support one needs to do business without burnout is one of those aspects. I never started at that place, mentally; I was too accustomed to being the support. Going out on my own meant I would be my own support too. Hey, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps! Right?
Even in the show, Friends, verbal/emotional soft skills are targeted. Joey says, "It's not what you said - it's how you said it!" and Chandler accuses Joey of becoming a woman.
He should be so lucky. Women have a grasp on words and their subtext that is natural for us as the group of people who have had to "read the room" every day of our lives in order to survive, navigate, and avoid. The same can be said of all people of color - our partners in the less-than world - but women and feminine references continue to bear the brunt of ridicule at the same time as those intuitive readings are now sought by Corporations everywhere.
It's time we understood what power we have in these so-called soft skills, and take pride in them. Taking pride in them will help our self-confidence and unlock many doors to our appreciation of our own wisdom.
Feeling and Communication
Reading below the surface of words and their meaning is called Emotional Intelligence. What you call a thing is important because it speaks to the understanding of the person you're speaking to. For example, in a corporate environment, if you say you "have a feeling", that is an easy phrase to dismiss. If on the other hand you speak of "Emotional Intelligence", you are getting your message through the front door where the guards are now not at attention!
Feeling good is the key to my week, and to my life, though I have only just begun to actively practice it. Up to now, confidence, and leadership were based on my spiritual and ethical beliefs and experiences only. Now, I can actually choose feeling good as THE potent tool in bringing me to where I want to be.
See, even horrific people like dictators and power-mongers get what they want - at least for a while. Why is that? They are hardly one's model for good leadership of the kind that serves all in positive ways.
I think I've got it. It's their certainty - that energy of positivity even in the midst of darkness - that they can have whatever they want. It is also, in the case specifically of dictator and power-monger types, their willingness to do anything at all to get what they want.
But their self-doubts, whatever they may be, seem to be silenced by the gushing river of their certainty.
Well, I'm not a dictator type, so I'm not willing to do anything externally to get what I want. But I am more than willing to do anything internally. And that is where leadership begins.
I received an invitation to a new email app so I took a look at it. When I got to the bottom to the founders, they were three young men and I thought, "Why is it always men? Why, when I get information about some big new product is it always men?"
Even given what has to be the truth - that my email box is simply not receiving the information about the women-owned businesses - there is no doubt in my mind that we women are still standing on the sidelines.
There is also no doubt in my mind that this is not our fault, but is our call to action. Big time!
There are reasons we don't know how strong we are - reasons we have not made the strides we are destined to make, and those reasons are cultural, and social, and conditioning, and they are deliberate. We have learned to live within them and navigate our way around and through them in order to get what we can, do what we can. But in so doing we have limited ourselves.
It is women who think in win-win modalities.
It is women who usher life onto this planet.
It is women who multi-task our lives to attempt to hold family and work in win-win positions.
It is women who have natural access to empathy and communication in a well-rounded life.
It is women who have not been socialized out of intuition and instinct, but who have been shamed for them.
It is women who have natural access to emotional awareness, but who have been shamed for having it - even now when emotional intelligence is deemed important in that male bastion of superiority: business.
We have to be aware of some things if we are to break out of this self-minimalizing prison.
Women's Leadership Coach and Speaker Lori is the author of Call Center Crazy and The Human Solution: Human Solutions to Every "Unsolvable" Business Problem,
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